Joe Manchin is in the cat bird’s seat.
The wily Democratic Senator from West Virginia was all the rage in the Washington political media after the election, bouncing from show to show, interview to interview.
The election left the U.S. Senate narrowly split. The balance of power hinges on what happens in the Georgia runoff election for two Senate seats. The outcome could be a 52-48 or 51-49 advantage for the GOP or, if the Democrats take both seats, the Senate will be 50-50.
With an even split, Vice President Kamala Harris would be the deciding vote, giving Democrats the advantage, but there would still have to be power sharing agreements between the two parties.
Whatever the outcome, the influence of moderates in both parties increases substantially. And that’s where Manchin comes in. He can be an important power broker in the upper chamber.
Manchin has managed to thread the political needle. He won re-election in 2018, despite growing Republican dominance in West Virginia, and has continued his search for fellow like-minded Senators in Washington to find a middle ground.
Senate Minority Leader (and maybe future Majority Leader) Chuck Schumer needs Manchin more than Manchin needs Schumer, especially if the Senate is evenly split. “50-50 (control) means that if one Senator does not vote on the Democratic side, there is no tie and there is no bill,” Manchin said on Fox.
Manchin went on to tell Fox that he would oppose the more leftist proposals of the Democratic agenda. “Whether it be packing the courts or ending the filibuster, I will not vote to do that,” Manchin said.
The Senator said those and other left-leaning ideas contributed to Election Day losses. The Green New Deal and “all this socialism” are not what the Democratic Party should stand for. “I am a proud moderate conservative Democrat,” he said. “Maybe there’s not many of us left, but I can tell you what this country wants is moderation.”
Manchin’s comments brought criticism from “Squad” members. Representative Ilhan Omar tweeted at Manchin, “Stop worrying about progressives, this might be the reason we don’t win the Senate races in Georgia.”
Manchin was also the target of a tweet from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who posted a picture of her giving the evil eye to an applauding Manchin during a State of the Union address.
Manchin laughed that off during an interview last week. He knows that every time a leftist attacks him, it improves his bonafides as a moderate back in his home state.
It is unclear whether Manchin will run for re-election. He will be 77 by the time the 2024 election rolls around. The red wave in the last election left Manchin as the only Democrat holding a statewide office, so winning another term will be tough.
However, in the meantime, he and his fellow moderates occupy a unique position in a divided Senate. It is a space Manchin can use to his and his state’s advantage.