Fifteen minutes late, Sen. Joe Manchin burst into the county library here and began working a conference room full of local business leaders and elected officials, many of whom he knew by name.
The crowd gathered last week for an event billed as an economic roundtable, but their junior senator opened with a laundry list of issues: coal, Obamacare, taxes and spending, student loans, immigration and then, dead last, perhaps the toughest issue he’s faced in his young tenure.
“Guns, I don’t need to tell you about guns,” Manchin said, getting a knowing laugh from the friendly crowd of about three dozen.
Manchin’s push earlier this year to expand background checks on gun sales was widely known, thanks in part to the National Rifle Association. In June, the NRA spent $100,000 airing an ad slamming Manchin for working with President Obama and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on their “gun-control agenda.” Manchin, a lifelong NRA member, punched back, with his own $100,000 ad buy defending his position. And last month, the NRA countered by sending letters critical of Manchin to 200,000 West Virginians.