The Cable

WV Senate seat holds Democrat, but with big change on foreign policy

Democrats might be happy that Joe Manchin is now predicted to win his Senate race in West Virginia, but on national security and foreign policy, Manchin couldn't be more different than his predecessor, the late, great Robert Byrd.

In March, 2003, Byrd delivered a famous speech opposing the U.S. invasion of Iraq with the country on the brink of war. As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he never stopped speaking out against the war passionately (although he did eventually fund it each year). Byrd believed that Congress had a responsibility to avoid war and in the case where war was unavoidable, to end it as soon as possible.

Now comes Manchin, who campaigned on a promise not to follow in lockstep with the Democratic leadership. On national security, he looks like a senator that could stand in opposition to President Obama's intention to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan next summer.

"Joe Manchin's governing philosophy on defense policy will be to listen to our commanders and generals on the ground," his spokesperson Lara Ramsburg told The Cable.

Of course, she was responding to our request for Manchin's position on the New START nuclear reductions treaty. That brings up another difference between Byrd and Manchin on foreign policy and national-security issues: 60 years of experience and knowledge.

The Cable

Christine O'Donnell will not get her wish to join SFRC

GOP Delaware candidate Christine O'Donnell's projected loss to Democrat Chris Coons means that she will not get her chance to chat about foreign policy with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

That's what O'Donnell pledged to do in a recent debate. A huge admirer of Clinton's despite that she doesn't support Clinton's actual policies, O'Donnell also said about the former First Lady, "She is someone that I admire, she is a woman who has had to hold her own in a man's world, and I think she's doing an amazing job right now."

So will Clinton still be willing to kibbitz about world affairs with O'Donnell even though she's just a regular citizen now? We've asked the State Department and will let you know when they respond.

And although O'Donnell won't be joining the foreign relations panel, there are several big changes coming to John Kerry's committee. Chris Dodd (D-CT) is retiring and Russ Feingold (D-WI) is struggling to hold onto his seat.

If Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak loses his bid in Pennsylvania, Bob Casey (D-PA) might have to leave SFRC to take a seat on the powerful appropriations committee, especially considering that appropriator Arlen Specter (D-PA) is leaving and Pennsylvania lost another key appropriator this year when Rep. John Murtha died.

As for the soon to be open SFRC seats, they typically goes to junior members because senior members seek out other, more profitable panels. But for those who have national ambitions, SFRC might be good because it gives emerging national political figures some gravitas and foreign policy bona fides (that was Barack Obama's strategy) So watch out for bids to join SFRC from projected GOP Senate winners Marco Rubio of Florida and Rob Portman of Ohio.