Ordinarily, the time between a politician’s position on a sensitive national issue like abortion and a flip-flop on it can be measured in years.
For Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), however, it’s mere weeks.
The senior senator from the Mountain State appeared with Planned Parenthood South Atlantic in April and posed for a picture with representatives from the organization, holding a framed sign reading, “I Stand With Planned Parenthood.”
The organization tweeted its approval at the time: “Thank you for standing with Planned Parenthood, @Sen_JoeManchin! #StandWithPP.”
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But less than a month later, in May, a smiling Manchin helped hold up a sign reading, “We Don’t Need Planned Parenthood” during a photo op with Students for Life.
“One Thing That Could Flip Sen. Manchin’s Vote for Planned Parenthood http://studentsforlife.org/manchinppfunding/ … @daviddaleiden #ppsellsbabyparts,” that group tweeted.
Joe Manchin, meet Joe Manchin.
Abortion has been a tightrope for Manchin, who is forever pulled in opposite directions by his overwhelmingly conservative constituents and his increasingly progressive party. He calls himself pro-life but still managed to rack up a 57 percent voting record from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
Manchin voted in March to block efforts to cut off family-planning funds to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. Vice President Mike Pence broke a 50-50 tie.
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On the other hand, Manchin has voted for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act, which would prohibit most abortions after 20 weeks.
Manchin has at times made a distinction between his personal opposition to abortion and other public policy goals.
“These are social issues, not political issues,” he told The Weekly Standard in 2016. “You are what you are — I was born and raised that way. Life is very sacred to me.”
The Republican National Committee, which has been highlighting Manchin’s conflicting Planned Parenthood images on social media, has sought to portray him as desperate ahead of November’s election in a state that President Donald Trump carried by 42 percentage points in 2016.
“To be fair, I can’t blame Manchin for panicking,” RNC Rapid Response Director Michael Ahrens said in an email. “But does ‘Two-Faced Joe’ have to be so blatantly obvious about his desperation?”
Ahrens ridiculed Manchin’s recent call for senators to take a pledge not to campaign against other members of the Senate. Ahrens pointed to a recent CNN roundtable discussion in which the cable network’s congressional reporter, Lauren Fox, called it a “political stunt,” and White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny labeled it “desperation.”
Ahrens wrote that Manchin did not apply that rule to himself when his political action committee donated to the Democratic opponent of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) four years ago.
“Hypocritically, Manchin attacked Sen. Mitch McConnell during his 2014 re-election,” Ahrens wrote.
A half-dozen Republicans, including Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, have lined up to challenge Manchin. Before he can focus on the eventual GOP nominee, however, he must contend with a primary challenge from the Left by environmental activist Paula Jean Swearengin.