Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W. Va.) did not mince words on Wednesday when asked to describe the historic losses by congressional Democrats.
"This is a real ass-whuppin," he said.
Manchin is a moderate first-term senator who has been openly flirting with going home to run again for West Virginia governor in 2016 instead of running for reelection. In a brief interview with The Washington Post, he unloaded on his party's leader, saying he's deeply frustrated with President Obama and Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) for his stewardship of the Senate in recent years. He openly suggested he might not support Reid to serve as Democratic leader again next year.
"Harry, let us vote, let’s do something. It’s easier for me to go home and explain what I voted for and against than to explain why I don’t vote at all," Manchin said.
Using a sports metaphor, Manchin said Senate Democrats have been acting in recent years like the West Virginia University Mountaineers football team did last Saturday: "We had the lead the whole entire game up until the middle of the 4th quarter and they decided to sit on the ball. And guess what? We got beat 31 to 30."
"This is a rough and tumble sport and you know what? Every member of Congress – 535 – has earned the right to make a complete fool of themselves if they want to," he added. "We just have to make sure that the American public can see who wants to get something done, who wants to be an obstructionist and who wants to be a fool."
When asked whether Reid wants to do something, or is an obstructionist, or a fool, Manchin said: "I have no idea."
"We’re going to find out" about Reid, he added, noting that he's been in talks with other moderate Democrats, including Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Angus King (I-Maine), about how their caucus should comport itself during the lame-duck and going into next year.
But Manchin once again ruled out leaving the Democratic Party -- as many pundits and operatives have suggested in recent weeks that he should do.
"No," he said flatly when asked if he would switch parties. "I’m a moderate Democrat, proud West Virginian. If you don’t have moderates on both sides and if you don’t have moderates on both sides, you don’t get anything done."
But Manchin was complimentary of how the GOP performed in Tuesday's elections.
"I think the Republicans played it masterfully," he said. "You didn’t see them playing to the extremes in their primaries. Cory Gardner is a perfect example. He was a very conservative member of Congress. He runs for the Senate and he couldn’t get to the middle quick enough. So they understand what this country wants."
Democratic losses "started at the White House, and this administration and it went all the way to leadership," he said. "If the Democratic Party was the majority party with a president, they should have gotten something accomplished. But that means working with the other side. I think that people felt that the Democrats didn’t work, did not reach out, basically played politics all the way through. And if Republicans were responsible for obstructing and filibustering and all that, let's see if they can lead. And if Democrats have identified that as the problem, let’s make sure we don’t do the same thing."
Manchin said he'll decide next year about possibly going home to run again for governor: "If the same old same old is going to continue to exist, then I’ll look at other options. Being back home can be a damn good option."