West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin premiered a new ad on Thursday’s Morning Joe, firing back against National Rifle Association attack ads and calling on West Virginians to demand change from the NRA itself.
“West Virginia, you know me, I haven’t changed and you know I have always fought for our gun rights,” the Democrat says in the ad. “I believe we can protect the Second Amendment and make our community safer.”
On Monday, Manchin unveiled plans to match the NRA by pulling from his re-election war chest to bankroll a counter-attack ad buy—an unusual move for a just-reelected senator. In the ad he tells West Virginians, 75% of whom support background checks according to a recent poll, that he doesn’t walk in “lockstep” with the NRA or any special interests. He ends the ad by asking voters to “Call the NRA and tell them to support criminal background checks.”
Manchin, an NRA “A-rated” Democrat, was one of the architects of a bipartisan bill that would have tightened background checks on gun sales. The legislation failed a narrow Senate vote back in April, and Manchin has since been a target of a $100,000 campaign led by the NRA to cast the Democrat from a gun-friendly state as a traitor.
“They’re trying to say Joe Manchin’s changed but I haven’t changed,” Manchin said on Thursday’s Morning Joe. “The leadership of the NRA in Washington has changed. In 1999, background checks were good. You know what, I haven’t changed. Four million NRA members haven’t changed, I think, but the leadership has changed.”
At the crux of the opposition, Manchin said, is distrust.
“The only thing they use against me is: ‘we just don’t trust government,” Manchin said. “Well, I’m sorry if you don’t like it. Get involved and make it better. Don’t just sit and curse the wind. But they don’t want to get involved, they just want to keep this paranoia going on.”
Manchin skewered politicians who fear entering the political fight he’s at the center of, with political ads swarming five years before his re-election campaign.
“What other purpose do we have here?” Manchin asked. “Why do we ask to be policy makers and be involved in the public process when we’re afraid to engage? I’m not. I’m not afraid to engage. The worst they can do is defeat me and send me home to my family and the state I love, West Virginia. That’s a pretty good consolation. What are we afraid of?”