Red-State Democrat Touts Border Wall Vote in Bid for Trump Fans

(Bloomberg) -- Vulnerable Democratic senators running for re-election in deep red Trump states are highlighting their alignment with the president, who’s demonstrated a tight hold on Republican voters.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has released a new TV ad touting his support for President Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall on the southern U.S. border. Manchin, a former governor, is running in November against West Virginia’s Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Trump won the state by 42 points in 2016.

“Hey, I wanted Mexico to pay for the wall. But they’re not. So we need to do it ourselves,” the senator says to the camera. “I voted to fund President Trump’s wall. Check the vote.”

Manchin’s among several Democrats up for re-election in states Trump carried by wide margins in 2016. They’re cozying up to Trump in an effort to demonstrate their willingness to work across the aisles with a president who’s popular among their voters.

Ten Democratic senators are running this year in states won by Trump in 2016. Manchin, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota are considered the most at-risk.

The ability of those and other endangered Democrats to hang onto their seats on Nov. 6 is critical to the party’s hopes of winning control of the chamber, where Republicans have a 51 to 49 majority.

Plum Photo-Op

In his new ad, Manchin refers to a Feb. 15 vote in favor of a Trump-backed immigration proposal that would have provided money to build a border wall, given some young people a path to citizenship, and cut future flows of legal immigration. It failed by a vote of 39 to 60. The other two Democrats who voted “yes” were Heitkamp and Donnelly.

Heitkamp stood inches away from Trump, who won her state by 36 points, on May 24 as he signed legislation she co-sponsored to ease some of the regulations of smaller financial institutions that were part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank banking law. The plum photo-op for the politically endangered Democrat irked Republicans as her GOP opponent in November’s election, Representative Kevin Cramer, was relegated to the background of a shot that aired on national television.

“This is a great day for Main Street in rural America,” Heitkamp said at the time.

‘Sleeping Joe’

Trump backed Cramer in a Twitter message on Wednesday, saying: “We need Kevin in the Senate, and I strongly endorse him. Heidi voted NO on our Tax Cuts, and always will vote no when we need her. Kevin is strong on Crime & Borders, big on Cutting Taxes!”

Donnelly also enjoyed some recent face-time with Trump as he prepares to take on former Republican state legislator Mike Braun in a state the president won by 19 points. Just weeks after Trump appeared at a rally in Elkhart, Indiana, to attack him as “Sleeping Joe,” the Democrat appeared at a May 30 signing ceremony with the president for a bill he co-sponsored, which gives terminally ill patients the “right to try” drug treatments that haven’t been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“I also want to thank Senator Donnelly,” Trump said, as Donnelly stood up, smiled and waved. “Senator Donnelly, thank you very much. That’s really great. Appreciate it. Thank you.”

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