Manchin’s putting W.Va. over party lines paid off

No doubt congressional elections in West Virginia on Tuesday had a few national pundits scratching their head in puzzlement. To some, the results may have seemed contradictory.

They made perfect sense to Mountain State voters.

How, out-of-state analysts unfamiliar with our state’s political culture may have asked, is it possible that Republicans won big in all three West Virginia House of Representatives districts — but lost in the U.S. Senate race? And how, in the state where President Donald Trump won his largest margin in 2016, did so many voters disregard his advice and vote to re-elect incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat?

Voters clearly rejected any idea of a rebellion against Trump, led by Democrats in the House. In the First Congressional District, Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., won re-election easily, by a 29.28-point margin. In the Second District, incumbent Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., prevailed by more than 11 points. And in the Third District, Republican Carol Miller won by nearly 13 points.

Manchin’s margin over Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey was much smaller — about 3.2 points — but it was a clear-cut victory.

Understanding that is as simple as recognizing that many West Virginia Democrat voters are far more conservative than national party leaders. It has been so for decades. The late Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., whose mantle Manchin has assumed, disagreed often with leaders of his party.

So it has been with Manchin, who has voted in Trump’s favor — and against the urging of Democrat leaders — often. He also has opposed the president on some important issues, including health care.

Rest assured, party labels still mean something in the Mountain State. But increasingly, voters refuse to be bound by them — and we insist our elected officials have the same attitude. In that light, Tuesday’s victories by Manchin, McKinley, Mooney and Miller are perfectly compatible.

All four understand that. Loyalty to West Virginia constituents and our best interests always comes first, with fealty to party ideology a very distant second. In our state, officeholders and candidates ignore that reality at their peril.