By the standards of the age, Manchin is a political magician. West Virginia, the state he represents as a Democrat in the Senate, has a 35.5 point lean toward the Republican Party, according to FiveThirtyEight. To put that into context, there is only one Republican in the Senate representing a state that’s even mildly bluish, and that’s Susan Collins, from Maine, which has a 4-point Democratic bias.
Put simply, Manchin shouldn’t exist. And Democrats cannot take him for granted. Their Senate majority, and thus the whole of their legislative agenda, hinges on his ability to win elections anyone else would lose. None of that makes Manchin’s every decision laudable, or even wise, but it demands recognition. He has honed instincts worth respecting. And now, in the 50-50 Senate that teeters on his vote, he is the most powerful legislator of our age.