Sen. Joe Manchin (D): I Might Not Vote For President Obama

Remarkable, but not entirely shocking:
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who has done more than any other Democrat up for reelection this year to distance himself from President Obama, said he does not know if he will vote for Obama or presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney in November.

“I’ll look at the options,” Manchin said this week. The last three years “have made it pretty rough” for his state, he said.

That stance is at odds with almost every other Democrat who is up for reelection this year or is from a state that Romney is likely to win. And it’s an indication of the unique effort Manchin has made to establish his independence from Obama and other Democrats. The senator has regularly used floor speeches and closely watched votes to, as he puts it, “respectfully” highlight differences with Obama, especially on environmental issues. He said Obama has never called him or sought a one-on-one conversation.

Manchin said his own vote will depend on how his constituents view the contest.

“The people in West Virginia, they basically look at the candidates—whatever you’re running for, whether it be the president itself, or whatever—[they look at] the performance and the result that’s been attained,” Manchin said when asked how he will vote. “Right now in West Virginia, these first three and a half years haven’t been that good to West Virginia. So, then you look [at] what the options will be, who will be on the other end.”

Calling it all but “inevitable that Governor Romney will be that person” on the Republican side, Manchin said it remains to be seen whether his constituents “feel connected” to Romney. Romney’s support for the budget plan offered by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., raises the question of whether that proposal “basically attacks entitlement in an unfair way,” Manchin said. The state has a high percentage of residents relying on federal benefits.

“I am just waiting for it to play out. I am not jumping in one way or another,” Manchin said. “I’m worried about me. I’ve said it’s not a team sport. You need to go out and work for yourself.”

Who is Joe Manchin? You may remember him from such crowd-pleasing films as "I Shoot Legislation That I Don't Like. With A Gun. Literally."

Like Joe Lieberman before him, I can definitely envision a defection from the Democratic party to the ranks of "independents" who lean Republican... Thoughts?