Joe Manchin: Endangered Democratic colleagues are key moderates

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, said that his Democratic colleagues fighting tough re-election battles in Republican-leaning states deserve to be re-elected because they are key moderate members of the Senate.

"If we're ever going to change Washington, you have to have moderates whether it be in Democrats or Republicans," Manchin said in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday.

Manchin called out specifically Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Mark Udall of Colorado and Mark Warner of Virginia, as prime examples.

"These are the people that are willing to reach across the aisle, work with Republicans, independents whoever they may be, trying to find solutions for America," Manchin said.

Nearly all of those senators must hold onto their seats for Democrats to keep control of the Senate. The latest CBS News/New York Times Battleground Tracker found that Republicans have many paths that could lead them to the majority, but none are easy or certain.

Many of those Democrats have struggled to distance themselves from President Obama, whose favorability rating is especially low in Republican-leaning states. Though President Obama said last week that those lawmakers have been strong allies, Manchin pushed back and said that's not necessarily true.

"Just saying the president calls up and tells them how to vote, that doesn't happen. I know that for a fact. I'm living proof of that. I have very little contact with the White House," he said. "But the basis is, is that when you see what's good, no matter who the president and what the policy might be, you do what's best for your country first."

Manchin said that politicians should always want the president to do well, regardless of their party, but that senators have "a responsibility" to speak up when they believe actions are not in the best interest of the country. In addition to the Democrats he praised for their ability to work across the aisle, he also cited Republicans Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Susan Collins of Maine and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, all of whom have an easy path to re-election on Nov. 4.

He also bemoaned the amount of money pouring into the competitive races this year. According to one estimate from the Wesleyan Media Project, spending on television ads for 2014 House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates is poised to surpass $1 billion.

"I've never seen this much money. It's a shame. It's almost an absolute shame in what's being done to the American voters, having this much money spent trying to believe that you're somebody you're not, or someone controls your vote controls how you think or what you say," Manchin said. "I know these people and that's not the case."

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.