U.S. Senator Joe Manchin is once again considering running for Governor of West Virginia, according to several people who are familiar with the Senator’s thinking.
At first glance, the fact that the political veteran is even contemplating the idea may be surprising. After all, Manchin won re-election to another six year term in the Senate just two months ago, and the U.S. Senate is a powerful and prestigious body.
However, Washington and Joe Manchin have never been a comfortable fit. The glacial pace of Congress, the entrenched positions and the political posturing drive him crazy. He’s a consummate dealmaker in a job where deals just aren’t done anymore.
Manchin was first elected Governor in 2004 and re-elected in 2008. He stepped down in 2010 after running successfully for the two-year unexpired term of Senate Robert Byrd after Byrd died. Manchin went to Washington, but in a way, he never really left West Virginia.
He loved being Governor, and even today he often interjects in conversations, “When I was Governor…” followed by a story of how he made a deal or fixed some problem.
The Governor’s job fit him because the position has significant executive powers. He can do things. Manchin floated the idea a few years ago of running for a third term as Governor, although he eventually decided to stay out of the race. At that time, Fox News Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt said of Manchin, “For a guy who is as rambunctious as Manchin, being Governor gives you the opportunity to make things happen.”
In 2016, Jim Justice made sure Manchin was not running before he got in the race. Manchin backed Justice and Justice hired several key members of Manchin’s campaign team, including consultant Larry Puccio and pollster Jefrey Pollock.
But there were two significant developments after Justice won; he switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party and he fired Manchin’s wife, Gayle, from her position as state Secretary for the Arts. Those actions cooled the relationship between the two.
Manchin was a 24/7 Governor, embedded in the details of the operation of state government. He behaved like an obsessive mayor of a small city, working furiously to try to keep the trains on time. That’s different from Justice who is more of a big picture guy who has even continued to live in Greenbrier County and commute to work rather than live in the Governor’s mansion.
When asked Friday about his interest in the governor’s race, Manchin fired a shot across Justice’s bow. “The state of West Virginia deserves and needs a full-time governor,” he said.
Manchin is already getting calls about 2020, some from Democrats who themselves are thinking about running for Governor and want to know his plans and some from West Virginians encouraging him to run. Also, he could run for Governor while continuing to serve in the Senate.
Manchin is mercurial. He’s known to change from day to day or even hour to hour how he feels about running for Governor. However, the idea keeps surfacing and the dynamism of the legislative session that just started in Charleston is far more appealing to him than the protracted partial shutdown that’s now gripping Washington.