Tarren Bragdon writes for National Review Online about the U.S. senator from West Virginia who’s helping to stand in the way of massive new federal government spending.

Everyone’s asking questions about Senator Joe Manchin. The West Virginian is the decisive vote on the $3.5 trillion spending bill under consideration in Congress, and so far, he’s put up roadblock after roadblock. The Left is perplexed: Why is this lifelong Democrat standing in the way of a huge progressive victory? The Right is pleasantly surprised, and perhaps a little bit wary: Why is this longtime liberal acting like a conservative?

I prefer a different question: Is Senator Manchin the only Democrat who can read polls?

Manchin is taking stands that enjoy broad public support. I think he deeply believes in what he’s doing. But it’s also the case that he’s advocating policies that align with the views of a clear majority of Americans. Manchin is a man of the mainstream — not just the West Virginia mainstream, but the national mainstream.

Start with the bill’s price tag. While partisan surveys show people either loving or despising the idea of $3.5 trillion in new federal spending, middle-of-the-road pollsters indicate that there are widespread concerns about adding massive sums to the federal debt. Gallup’s 2021 research shows that more than three-quarters of Americans are concerned about federal spending and deficits, with about half worried “a great deal.” A spring Ipsos poll found that three out of four Americans think too much national debt will hurt the economy.

If mounting debt is a concern for voters, the massive spending bill should be a political nonstarter. Yet Manchin seems to be one of the few Democrats who recognizes the danger of passing the bill and is endeavoring to do right by the public. There’s a reason his call for a “strategic pause” on the $3.5 trillion plan has 60 percent support overall and nearly two-thirds support in suburbs.