Morrisey, the state’s attorney general, trailed in the polls leading up to Election Day but was still considered a threat to Manchin, a Democrat serving a deep red state that President Donald Trump won with 68 percent of the vote in 2016. Trump and several people close to him ― including Vice President Mike Pence and several members of Trump’s family ― made appearances in West Virginia on Morrisey’s behalf in the weeks ahead of the election.
Morrisey frequently touted Trump’s support, billing himself as “an ally” to the president and asking people to “join the Trump-Morrisey team.”
But the president’s backing wasn’t enough to help Morrisey, who painted Manchin as too liberal on issues like abortion and gun control.
Morrisey repeatedly slammed Manchin’s support of former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who said during a campaign stop in 2016 that she had “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” But since the 2016 election, Manchin has taken great pains to present himself as a moderate.
He told the Charleston Gazette-Mail in 2017 he didn’t “give a shit” if he failed to be re-elected for breaking party lines on tax reform. He was also the only Democratic senator to vote for Trump’s scandal-ridden Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh.
Many of Manchin’s attacks centered on Morrisey’s ties to the pharmaceutical industry, a sore spot in a state ravaged by the opioid crisis. Morrisey’s wife works as a lobbyist for Capitol Counsel, which represents pharmaceutical companies, and Morrisey previously worked in a similar role. Lawyers and lobbyists with ties to the industry provided tens of thousands of dollars to Morrisey’s campaign, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported in 2017.
Morrisey fired back with criticism of Manchin’s own pharmaceutical ties: Manchin’s daughter is the CEO of Mylan, the company now known for the EpiPen pricing scandal.
Manchin, who previously served as governor of West Virginia, has been a U.S. senator since 2010, when he defeated Republican John Raese in a special election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D). He defeated Raese again two years later, when he was re-elected to serve a full term.