MANCHIN’S COMMITMENT TO HIS PARTY…. The U.S. Senate race in West Virginia proved to be one of the more competitive contests of the year, but Democrats managed to hold onto the seat previously held by the late Robert Byrd. Gov. Joe Manchin (D), with nearly $4 million in help from the DSCC, beat John Raese (R) by double digits.

The question now appears to be whether Manchin will keep his commitment to his party. Fox News reports today that Senate Republicans are already offering a series of bribes enticements, intended to tempt the senator-elect away from his party and into the GOP.

Aside from his pick of committee assignments (likely the Energy and Natural Resources Committee), Manchin might get support for one of his pet projects – a plant to convert coal to diesel fuel that has stalled under Democratic leadership in Washington.

A Manchin advisor was quoted by Fox News saying, “He was elected as a Democrat and he has to go to Washington as a Democrat to try, in good faith, to make the changes in the party he campaigned on. Now, if that doesn’t work and Democrats aren’t receptive, I don’t know what possibilities that leaves open.”

I don’t doubt this will cause a stir, but I’d recommend caution before taking the report too seriously. For one thing, Fox News lies, all the time, simply as part of its business model. For another, quoting an unnamed “advisor” isn’t exactly rock-solid reporting. An “advisor” falls well below “staffer” or “aide” in reporting sources.

It would also be pretty odd for a member to deliberately give up a seat in the majority to join a Senate minority.

As far as I can tell, at this point, neither the senator-elect nor anyone who actually works for him has said or done anything to suggest Fox News’ reporting has any merit at all.

But, I suppose it’s worth keeping an eye on. I figure, if Fox News is talking about it, the network probably got word from the Republican leadership, suggesting, at a minimum, the GOP will see if Manchin is receptive to outreach. What’s more, these stories have a way of sometimes becoming self-fulfilling — the media starts buzzing about Manchin talking to Republicans, which in turn leads to Manchin talking to Republicans.

I don’t know Manchin well enough to say whether this might go anywhere — one on-the-record denial should help end the chatter fairly quickly — but I suppose it will come down to which Joe Manchin goes to D.C., the populist who champions the needs of working families, or the guy who ran to the right this fall?

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.