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West Virginia Governor Defends State's Voters

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," May 27, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HEMMER: All right. Happening now on "America's Election Headquarters," West Virginia's governor has had enough, he says, enough of the pundits insulting the people of his state.

Democratic Governor Joe Manchin now saying he is sick and tired of people negatively stereotyping voters in West Virginia, and he's here now to set that record straight.

Governor Manchin on the phone. Sir, good evening to you.

GOV. JOE MANCHIN, D-W. VA.: Good evening, Bill. How are you?

HEMMER: I'm doing fine. Nice to hear your voice again. What's bothering you, governor?

Video: Watch the interview

MANCHIN: Well, you hear this, and I have heard this from West Virginia and Kentucky and these types states which we call Appalachia, but, you know, which we had a story in the paper today, which was this really something that a young African-American female staffer of Obama's was working in West Virginia and she was concerned because she didn't know, just what she'd heard. And her car broke down, and they've instead (ph), not only that help her fix the car, the family lent their car for her to continue on her campaigning. They got to know each other.

In West Virginia, we like to say that most people have a PhD in life because they've worked so darn hard and work in the factories and worked in the mines and worked in the chemical industry. They can shake your hand and read you like a book or they can look in your eyes and see your soul, but they need to see you. They need to press the flesh.

HEMMER: You know, as you talk about that, if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee, can he win in your state in November, governor?

MANCHIN: I truly believe he can. I can tell you, the people in West Virginia are totally committed to change. We have to change the direction of this country for this -

HEMMER: What does it mean when Hillary Clinton wipes him out by 41 points two weeks ago?

MANCHIN: Well, I mean, listen, first of all, Bill Clinton is a very, very popular ex-president in West Virginia, who is still beloved as she is very popular, and she — the whole family worked extremely hard here. It's just campaigning that paid off, it was pressing the flesh, you know, and face to face.

HEMMER: But Obama was on the airwaves there with a lot of money to advertise on TV. Are you saying that he has to go back to your state in order to win it? You've got to press the flesh and you've got to drink beer or you've got to go to a Mountaineers' football game in the fall or what?

MANCHIN: Well, it doesn't hurt. Not just that. But people need to see and they need to know that you care and you're involved and you do consider them to be important. They just need to have a comfort level and it takes time. And any of these hard-working areas where people basically get up every morning and ask nothing from anybody and work and do it themselves, they really truly put a lot of trust in that (ph).

HEMMER: What I hear you saying, governor, is that he did not work hard enough for that vote (ph).

MANCHIN: Well, I'll tell you, he had a lot of different — he has a good foundation. He has eleven different outposts, if you will, campaign offices. He spent quite a bit of money, but they enjoyed the time and also the relationship they've had with the Clintons. It had nothing to do with race. And people keep talking about that. It's just so wrong.

The education level, they might not have all the degrees hanging on the wall, but they are extremely well-educated in life. They work hard. And I can tell you, they — when they have a comfort level, they'll rally for you and fight for you.

HEMMER: Thank you, governor. Joe Manchin on the phone tonight, Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

MANCHIN: Thank you, Bill.

HEMMER: Good to have you on.

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