When discussing Joe Manchin, the conversation among political wags inevitably turns to “what’s next?”
When Manchin was Secretary of State, he was setting up a run for Governor. When he was Governor, he was eyeing the United States Senate.
Now that Manchin has finally secured a full six-year term in the Senate (after initially winning a special election for an unexpired two-year term in 2010 following Senator Byrd’s death), there’s chatter of Manchin running for… wait for it… Governor.
Politco reported this week on the future of moderate Senate Democrats like Manchin if Republicans take control of the body in this year’s election.
‘“I am who I am. I don’t fit anywhere,’ Manchin said of his politics, too conservative for most Democrats, but too liberal for most Republicans,” Politico reported. That invited speculation about whether Manchin prefers Charleston over Washington.
“He isn’t up for re-election until 2018 and makes no secret that he would like to be a state executive after cutting short his second term as governor to replace the late Robert Byrd in 2010,” Politico reported. “Manchin is ‘absolutely’ considering another run for governor, calling it a ‘big option.’”
Manchin has never settled comfortably into the painfully deliberate pace of the Senate or Washington’s fixation on party allegiance. His high-energy pace and short attention span are more suited for day-to-day operations and deal making than the hyper-partisan slog of the nation’s capital.
And, as always, Manchin is a party unto himself. That was evident again when Politico asked him about West Virginia’s U.S. Senate race.
“He (Manchin) supports Democrat Natalie Tennant in her run to replace the retiring West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, but questions whether it is ‘morally right’ to ‘beat up’ on Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito in that race. He said the state has ‘two good candidates’ in the race—not exactly holding the party line.”
That has to be disappointing to Tennant. She’s raising real money and campaigning hard in her uphill battle against Capito. Having Manchin solidly in her corner would help immensely.
But Manchin avoids corners. He works the room, dominating its center and always protecting his flank.
“I’ll wait until after the “’14 election and start making some decisions,” Manchin told Politico. “I would never say I’m leaning any way.”
After Capito-Tennant, the next big race in West Virginia is the 2016 Governor’s contest. Gov. Tomblin cannot run for re-election, so it’s wide open. Now the ever-impatient Manchin has, just with a few words, conveniently dropped his name into the mix.
What’s next for Manchin? I don’t think even he knows, but he has the rare political luxury of time to decide.