CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Businessman John Raese (R) told a group of Republican activists and local businessmen Friday that if he is elected to the Senate in November, he would limit himself to serving just one full term.
Raese is running in the special election to serve out the remainder of the late Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd’s term, which expires in 2012. Raese said Friday that if he is elected, he might run for re-election to a full term in two years, but he would not run again in 2018.
During a luncheon event at the Summit Conference Center in downtown Charleston, Raese said that if voters think he is doing a good job, “I’m going to run for one more term.” Raese, who is personally wealthy, is making his fourth run for statewide office. The Republican’s decision to term-limit himself is a stark contrast to Byrd’s tenure. The late Senator was elected to nine terms and is longest-serving Senator in the history of the chamber.
While Raese’s opponent on the Nov. 2 ballot is Gov. Joe Manchin (D), you’d barely know that from listening to him stump on the campaign trail. Instead, one would think President Barack Obama was at the top of the Democratic ticket.
Whether before an industry group Thursday evening, a gathering of middle school students and their parents Friday morning or a luncheon with local businessmen Friday afternoon, Raese directs his remarks and his ire at Obama and the president’s signature legislative policies. Manchin, the largely popular governor who is suddenly running behind in the polls, gets hardly a mention — except for a few parting words in which Raese contends that the Democrat would “rubber-stamp” Obama’s agenda.
While repeatedly taking aim at the new health care law, the $787 billion stimulus bill and Obama’s environmental policies, Raese’s favorite line of attack is to remind voters what the president said during a 2009 interview when he was asked whether he believes in “American exceptionalism.” Obama answered that he believes in American exceptionalism “just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”
“I always think of American exceptionalism, don’t you? Are we exceptional in this country? I think I’m exceptional. Do y’all think you’re exceptional? I think so,” Raese told a dinner gathering of the Association of Cold Rolled Strip Steel Producers on Thursday evening at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs. “But I was troubled when I saw our president stand up, and he was asked that same question. … And he sat and he thought awhile and said, Yes I do believe in American exceptionalism. But I also believe in German exceptionalism and I believe in Chinese exceptionalism.’ … So, what did he just tell us? He doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism.”
Not until 30 minutes into a 34-minute address did Raese bother to mention Manchin.
“I don’t think there’s much really to debate,” Raese said in an interview after the speech. “I don’t know what ideas he has. So, when I make speeches and when I talk, I talk about things that we can do to make this country better. … Quite frankly, I haven’t heard him talk about too much.”
On Friday morning, Raese’s attacks on Obama continued, as he told middle school students and their parents at the private Cross Lanes Christian School that the new health care law is “unmitigated socialism in its worst respect” — a line that received enthusiastic applause.
Consistent with what has turned out to be a very effective campaign message, when Raese did mention Manchin, he warned that the governor, if elected, would go to Washington, D.C., and serve as a reliable rubber stamp for Obama and the Democratic leadership in the Senate. A few hours after this appearance, the Raese campaign unveiled a new ad set to run on statewide broadcast and cable TV.
“Joe Manchin will do anything to avoid talking about being a rubber stamp for Barack Obama,” Raese says as the spot opens, according to a transcript of the ad released by his campaign. “Obamacare means big government; cap-and-trade hurts coal; Obama’s tax increases hurt families. And Joe Manchin rubber-stamps all of these.”