Manchin, Morrisey Spar During Only U.S. Senate Debate in W.Va.

Patrick Morrisey, left, and Sen. Joe Manchin speak to reporters after a debate Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018, in Morgantown, W.Va.

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican challenger Patrick Morrisey sparred Thursday night over the opioid epidemic, tax cuts, the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and more during the only debate of their campaign.

Both candidates talked over each other often during the testy debate as they tried to get their points across.

Manchin, a moderate Democrat seeking his second full term in the Senate, highlighted his bipartisan work and labeled Morrisey as a “yes man” for Republican President Donald Trump.

Morrisey, a two-term state attorney general, made sure to hammer home three points.

Nine times during the one-hour debate Morrisey referred to Manchin as a “dishonest Washington liberal.” He often brought up Manchin’s support of 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and excitedly advertised the scheduled appearance Friday of Trump in Huntington. It’s his third visit to the state to rally for Morrisey.

Trump won West Virginia by 42 percentage points over Clinton in 2016. He became popular in Appalachia for making broad promises to put coal miners back to work, despite grim economic forecasts for the industry.

“Senator Manchin supported Hillary Clinton when it really mattered the most,” Morrisey said.

Manchin fired back, “Hillary Clinton is not on the ballot.”

Manchin renewed his criticism of Morrisey’s past lobbying ties to the pharmaceutical industry and said he profited from the flooding of prescription pain pills into the state.

West Virginia leads the nation by far in the rate of drug overdose deaths. Morrisey said such deaths in the state doubled when Manchin was governor from 2004 to 2010.

“We’re going to attack this opioid epidemic,” Morrisey said. “The reality is, when you heard from me, you can count on what I say. Senator Manchin, you can’t trust anything he says.”

Manchin repeated criticism of Morrisey joining 19 other states in a federal lawsuit that seeks to overturn former President Barack Obama’s health care law, including popular insurance protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions. Morrisey said he had no intention of getting rid of those protections.

Manchin replied, “If you drop your lawsuit, we’re good.”

A moderator asked Manchin why he waited until the last minute to decide to support Kavanaugh’s nomination. Manchin quickly pointed out he was the only Democrat to support Kavanaugh. “The vote is the vote — nothing’s going to change,” Manchin said.

Morrisey jumped on the chance to say that Manchin “took a powder in the bathroom” and enabled Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine to cast the deciding vote.

Morrisey said he supports Republican-sponsored tax cuts to stimulate the state’s economy, while Manchin said he voted against Trump’s cuts because of spiraling debt and inflation worries.

“We’ve written checks our children will never cash,” Manchin said.

The candidates also sparred over immigration and a proposed constitutional amendment to allow lawmakers to restrict or ban taxpayer-funded abortions. Morrisey said he supports the amendment, while Manchin is against it because it does not include exceptions to save the life of the mother and in cases of rape or incest.

Republicans view the election as a chance to flip a U.S. Senate seat that Manchin has held since 2010. He’s among 10 Senate Democrats up for re-election in states Trump won.