As a Democratic Senator somehow elected last year in a state where Barack Obama has some of his lowest approval ratings, Joe Manchin is a curious bellweather. The more he has to run from Obama and the more he feels empowered to publicly criticize the head of his party, the more Obama it suggests the President is out of touch with the kind of blue collar voters and Reagan Democrats he's going to need to win the White House again.

Obama's handling of the budget hasn't exactly impressed Manchin. And he's not the only Senate Democrat that feels that way, either:

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin ripped President Barack Obama on his budget proposals in a Senate floor speech Tuesday, a rare rebuke from a freshman Democrat who clearly is worried about the politics of deficit spending as he faces a tough reelection in 2012.

Manchin charged the president with failing to lead the way in reducing spending, while also criticizing Republicans for offering “partisan” and “unrealistic” budget proposals.

“Why are we doing all this when the most powerful person in these negotiations — our president — has failed to lead this debate or offer a serious proposal for spending and cuts that he would be willing to fight for?”

The full-throated rejection of the president’s spending proposals by a politically vulnerable Democrat is just the latest worrisome sign for Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who have yet to rally their party around a unified spending plan. Indeed, Democratic leaders are having trouble just keeping moderates on board — Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) also have expressed skepticism that Democrats are willing to cut enough spending to satisfy voters and make a dent in the deficit.

And in a related story, last week the Washington Post called out Democrats for not telling the truth about meeting the GOP "halfway" on budget cuts. The White House took umbrage and presented their case to the Post who carefully reviewed the new data -- and concluded the dishonesty was even worse than they thought.

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