Surging GOP Senate candidate John Raese is doubling down on his allegation that West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin lied by saying that he opposed the unpopular Obama healthcare overhaul.
In September, Manchin told a West Virginia Gazette reporter: "I wouldn't have voted for the final version of that thing with the way that it came out."
Not so, Raese tells Newsmax.TV in an exclusive interview.
"He was for it before he was against it," Raese says. "I find that odd."
Manchin's statement that he opposed Obamacare stands in stark contrast to statements he made at a March 13 National Governors Association conference.
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Journalist Karen Tumulty asked governors how they would have voted on Obamacare reconciliation bill.
Manchin's remarks were captured on camera.
"I'd be for it," answered Manchin without hesitation. "You have to move this ball forward . . . I have never, since I've been in the legislative process, and since I have been governor, I have never got a perfect bill."
Manchin also is seen in the video congratulating the president on moving his healthcare reforms through Congress. "You need to praise this president and this administration for sticking with this as long as they have," Manchin said.
"I've not seen this much commitment in anything else that we've gotten in the political process."
As Raese tells Newsmax.TV in an exclusive interview: "We certainly have so many news clips of him saying that he is for Obamacare, saying he is for healthcare reform, saying a lot of initiatives that are in Obamacare are good for West Virginia.
Raese adds: "As you know, I say we need to repeal Obamacare as fast as we can. If Governor Manchin's really [not] for Obamacare — like now that he's done a 360 — he ought to offer the same statement I offer: Let's repeal it. Instead, he just wants to tweak it a little bit."
Raese is president and CEO of Morgantown, W.V.-based Greer Industries, a coal and limestone producer. His various business interests employ more than 1,000 people.
The Raese-Manchin contest has drawn national attention, with Raese shooting up rapidly in the polls.
That was not the case in July, when a Rasmussen poll showed Manchin leading Raese by 51 to 35 percent.
But Manchin, who endorsed then-candidate Obama in June 2008, has been weighed down lately by President Obama's dismal 29 percent approval rating in the coal-producing region. That Manchin apparently has flip-flopped on Obamacare is one indication of just how unpopular Obama has become in the Mountain State.
A Sept. 28 Rasmussen Reports poll showed Raese taking a 48 to 46 percent lead over Manchin. A Fox News poll on Oct. 2 showed Raese ahead by five points, 48 to 43 percent.
"When we start talking about national issues, issues like the stimulus or Obamacare or cap and trade, that's where he starts to deviate a lot," Raese says. "He hasn't been right on those issues."
Raese suggests a vote for Manchin is, indirectly, a vote for Obama's agenda.
"He's been a very early supporter of Barack Obama," Raese says in the exclusive Newsmax.TV interview. "And what we've tried to do is show that there is a different governor in West Virginia on state issues. But if you send that popular governor to Washington, then you're going to have no more than what we say is a rubber stamp, going to Washington to be a rubber stamp for Obama."
A Raese win would mark the first time in more than 50 years West Virginia has elected a Republican senator.
Also, Republicans hoping to take control of the Senate increasingly point to West Virginia as a state that could offset Christine O'Donnell's uphill battle in Delaware.
Other noteworthy statements from the Raese interview with Newsmax.TV:
- He says there would be "a wonderful chance" of repealing Obamacare even if Republicans don't gain a Senate majority. The key, he says, would be building coalitions with Democrats on the other side of the aisle.
- Cap-and-trade legislation would be "disastrous" for his coal-producing state, and for the nation. He adds that it is critical for Republicans to have enough votes in the Senate to counter any effort by the Obama administration's EPA to impose caps on greenhouse-gas emissions.
- Raese, a lifetime NRA member, voices concern that only five current Supreme Court justices share a robust view of the Second Amendment's right to bear arms. "If we're going to send a senator from West Virginia . . . who is that senator going to follow in the nomination process of our next Supreme Court justice?" he asks. "I think my record is very clear who I would be following and what allegiances I have."
- As a business owner, Raese says that he sees every day how bureaucratic red tape in Washington impacts corporations. "Every time you have a new tax, or every time you have to pay really an inordinate amount for a regulation, it's really stifling this country and really stifling American business," says Raese, who favors paring back regulations by ensuring they don't violate the Constitution. He adds: "I'm a constitutionalist and I believe very firmly in that."
- Raese, the former chairman of the West Virginia GOP, describes himself as a staunch opponent of earmarks. He says some 90,000 earmarks have been passed into law since 1994. "Is this taxation without representation?" Raese asks. His answer: "Yes they are. Because a lot of senators and a lot of congressmen give back to certain individual groups, or even individuals, these earmarks. They are not a reflection, I think, of the United States and certainly our citizenry."
- The grass-roots conservative movement reflects a better-informed electorate. "When you look at the advent of the tea parties today, that believe as I do firmly in the Constitution, and the power of the Constitution, the education of the American voter today is on a level that I have never seen in my life," he tells Newsmax. "And it's the best thing that's happened in this country in a long, long time. We're seeing a change in the right direction in this country, and I certainly welcome it."
- Raese also favors giving the president a line-item veto power. "We ought to start running the government like a private-sector business," he says. "I have that ability as CEO of our companies. I have line item vetoes, and if I didn't, we'd probably be out of business by now."
- He supports making the Bush tax cuts permanent. "I think that plays a lot into what maybe George W. Bush wanted to do in the first place," he says. "So I'm not just for extending. I want to make them permanent." He adds, "And the best part about permanent, there'd be no more death tax in this country. And I think that's the killer for small business."
Because the West Virginia race is a special election to replace late Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd, who held the seat for 51 years, Raese would take office immediately after being certified the winner.
GOP leaders say that could be critical to stopping lawmaking by lame-duck members of Congress, who would have nothing to lose politically because they won't be returning to Congress anyway.
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