Sen. Joe Manchin on Wednesday said he would not vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders in a general election contest against incumbent President Donald Trump, just days after the airing of an interview in which Sanders told CNBC's John Harwood that working-class voters in states like Manchin's West Virginia would support progressive policies like Medicare for All and a higher minimum wage.
"It wouldn't be Bernie," Manchin, a Democrat, told Fox News host Neil Cavuto when asked if he would vote for the Republican Trump over Sanders in a hypothetical matchup.
"Let's just say I'm going to make decisions based on what's best for my country and my state," Manchin added when pressed on whether he would cast a vote for Trump.
Joe Manchin says he “absolutely will not” support Bernie Sanders’ agenda, says he won’t vote for him vs. Trump, and refuses to rule out voting for Trump pic.twitter.com/7YIds0bI5j— Ibrahim (@ibrahimpols) October 31, 2019
Manchin also told Fox that he would vote against the Sanders agenda, calling it "not practical where I come from."
Linda Sarsour, an activist and prominent Sanders backer, took to Twitter to point out that Manchin has no motivation to support Sanders' policies "because Joe Manchin will be fine under any administration."
"No one is ever gonna be stripping white men of any rights," said Sarsour. "He doesn't give a damn about the most marginalized and struggling people in America."
The West Virginia senator's comments came in response to questions from Cavuto about remarks Sanders made in his Tuesday interview where the Vermont senator, a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, said it was "damn right" that Manchin and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) would vote for his agenda. Sanders told Harwood that as president, he would go to the home states of recalcitrant senators to ask constituents to pressure the holdouts.
"Your average politician sits around and he or she thinks, 'Let’s see—if I do this, I'm going to have the big money interests putting 30-second ads against me,'" said Sanders. "But now, they're going to have to think, 'If I don't support an agenda that works for working people, I'm going to have President Sanders coming to my state and rallying working-class people.'"
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"Damn right they will." I love @BernieSanders' response — and his wink — when asked to explain how a Sanders administration will get establishment Democrats to implement his agenda pic.twitter.com/zzilzsPW2Y— Eric Blanc (@_ericblanc) October 29, 2019
Activist Jordan Uhl on Tuesday questioned the premise of Harwood's question, saying that the CNBC host "doesn't quite understand the political makeup of West Virginia."
"He asks if Joe Manchin of West Virginia would vote for Sanders' policies if elected," Uhl said. "Every single county in West Virginia went Sanders in the 2016 primary."
Justice Democrats communications director Waleed Shahid made the same point Thursday, calling Manchin's comments "pretty disrespectful to Democratic voters."
Manchin’s move seems pretty disrespectful to Democratic voters. pic.twitter.com/j6sH2LV4c5— Waleed Shahid (@_waleedshahid) October 31, 2019
Reaction to Manchin's comments from Democratic leaders was largely muted, leading Young Turks reporter Emma Vigeland to wonder if centrist Democrats would call out the West Virginia senator.
"Where's the 'Bernie's not a Democrat' crowd on this?" asked Vigeland wondered.
Daily Beast politics reporter Sam Stein opined that if the situation were reversed, the anger of centrist Democrats would likely be explosive.
"Just imagine the anger directed at the Bernie camp if a lawmaker supporting him (or even a prominent support of his) said they wouldn't support for the centrist Dem candidate against Trump," tweeted Stein.