Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) said in a new interview that it was a "mistake" to support Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race and did not rule out endorsing President Donald Trump for reelection in 2020.
Manchin said he planned to retract his support after Clinton's infamous remark in March 2016 that her administration would "put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business." However, Manchin said she and Bill Clinton pleaded with him not to withdraw his support, according to Politico.
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"She said, ‘Please don't. Let me come to West Virginia, I need to explain.' I said, ‘That's a bad idea, you shouldn't come,'" Manchin recalled.
Manchin said he was swayed by Clinton's $20 billion promise as president to help an impoverished part of the state get broadband Internet, new highways, and a hydroelectric dam.
"It was a mistake. It was a mistake politically," Manchin said of continuing to support Clinton, saying her pledge was too good to ignore. "Is this about me? Or trying to help a part of my state that's never recovered and is having a tough time."
It is a long way from 2014, when Manchin said of Clinton: "I don't know if there's anyone more qualified [to be president]."
"Washington Democrats are making it more difficult for me to be a West Virginia Democrat," he told Politico.
Manchin is seeking reelection to the Senate after Trump routed Clinton by more than 40 points in West Virginia in 2016. Manchin is the most conservative Democrat in the chamber and has backed Trump on such issues as tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. He also voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and CIA Director Gina Haspel when the vast majority of his Democratic colleagues opposed them.
"I'm open to supporting the person who I think is best for my country and my state," Manchin said. "If his policies are best, I'll be right there."
"If it's good for the state and it's good for the nation, I'm going to support that person," he added. "A lot of the policies he's done [have] been good for the state."
Trump was not as friendly toward Manchin in April, blasting him for opposing the sweeping tax-reform package he signed last year.
"He votes against everything, and he voted against our tax cuts, and that was bad," Trump said.
Manchin also opposed Trump on Betsy Devos for secretary of education, Tom Price to lead the Health and Human Services Department, and on the attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. Politico described Manchin as frustrated with Trump for going to the right when he thinks he's gotten the White House to moderate on issues like gun control or immigration.
The senator's 2018 opponent, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R.), considers Manchin's voting record evidence that he does not reflect the state's support for Trump.
"Joe Manchin is not fully supportive of the Trump agenda. If Joe Manchin says that he votes with the president 50-60 percent of the time? In my book that's a failure," Morrisey said.