Struggling Dem Senate candidate distances himself from Obama

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) took strides on Monday to distance himself from President Obama and Washington Democrats as he tries to repair his flagging Senate bid.    

In an interview on Fox News, Manchin said he is open to repealing the new healthcare law — the signature accomplishment of Democrats during Obama’s time in the White House.  

The governor also took to the airwaves to tout his independence, releasing a TV ad in which he's shown shooting a hole through the cap-and-trade bill favored by Obama and House Democrats. 

The moves by the governor come amid new polls that show Manchin trailing Republican John Raese in the West Virginia Senate race. Manchin was once considered a shoo-in for the seat, long held by the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D), but Raese has surged ahead in polls in part by branding Manchin as a rubber-stamp for the Obama administration.    

Manchin has responded by sprinting toward the right, doubling down on his call in late September for repealing part of the new healthcare law. 

"The president's plan — 'Obamacare,' as it's been called — is far too reaching. It's overreaching. It needs to have a lot of it repealed," Manchin said on Fox. "If you can't fix that, repeal the whole thing."

Manchin has the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Rifle Association, two groups allied more often with Republican candidates. He mentioned both of those groups in his new ad, which raised eyebrows for its unconventional treatment of the cap-and-trade legislation that passed the House last June but stalled in the Senate. 

“I sued EPA and I’ll take dead aim at the cap-and-trade bill,” Manchin says in the ad as he shoots a mock version of the bill with a rifle. “Because it’s bad for West Virginia,” he says.

Manchin made a strong statement about cap-and-trade last week that singled out Obama. 

"The bottom line is cap-and-trade is dead wrong and President Obama is dead wrong on cap-and-trade," Manchin said on Fox News.

West Virginia voters have traditionally been receptive to electing Democrats, despite a recent trend of supporting Republican candidates in presidential elections. 

But Democrats have had a tougher time in the state this year amid a Republican wave that could cost the party control of the House and reduce their majority in the Senate. 

Mike Oliverio, for example, beat Rep. Allan Mollohan in the Democratic primary but is now locked in a tough fight against Republican David McKinley. In the state's 3rd congressional district, Rep. Nick Rahall (D) is facing a tough Republican challenge from Spike Maynard.

Polls indicate Manchin is fighting an uphill battle. Forty-eight percent of likely voters said they would prefer Raese if the election were held today, according to a Fox News/Pulse Opinion poll conducted Oct. 2 and released late last week. Forty-three percent said they'd vote for Manchin, and 6 percent of likely voters said they were undecided. The poll had a 3 percent margin of error.

The competitive race in West Virginia is a real concern for Democrats in Washington, who are hoping to stave off the 10 Senate losses Republicans need to reclaim the majority in the Senate. 

GOP leaders have long acknowledged that a 10-seat pickup in Senate races would be difficult, but with Manchin's stumbles, control of the upper chamber could be within reach.