West Virginia Republican hopefuls for 2024 are already declaring their intentions or positioning themselves for the next election. However, the state’s leading Democrat remains non-committal.
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin will not say whether he will run for re-election in 2024, but he doesn’t have to, at least not yet, no matter how many times those of us in the media press him for an answer.
“I’m not in a hurry. I don’t have to be in a hurry,” Manchin said on Talkline Friday. “The bottom line is I only care about one thing and that’s the success of my state and people having opportunities in my state.”
Manchin is the only hope the Democrats have of holding the seat in West Virginia. The state has gone overwhelmingly Republican, leaving him as the last Democrat still afloat in a sea of red.
Manchin, as is often the case, gives mixed signals when asked about his intentions.
He detests the ever increasing political tribalism in Washington, which often puts him at odds with not only Republicans, but also with members of his own party. Manchin’s nature is to try to find common ground, and that is often in short supply in D.C.
But Manchin also believes that he has an opportunity to make a difference, especially if he remains the 50th Democratic vote in a divided Senate. It is awfully tempting to stay at the seat of power when you can be a player in decisions affecting your state and the nation.
The more personal circumstances seem to lean toward not running. He is 75 years old, so if he runs and wins re-election, he would be in his 80s and still commuting back and forth between West Virginia and Washington, while keeping the same hectic pace.
Would retirement fit Manchin? He gets bored easily. Manchin is notorious for reaching out to staff, friends and colleagues on any day at all hours. Clearly, he enjoys being in the fray, which would dry up immediately if he got out of politics.
I suspect the Republican opponent will play into his decision. Manchin can barely hide his contempt for Congressman Alex Mooney, who has already declared his intention to run for the seat Manchin now holds. If Mooney is the likely Republican nominee, Manchin would not want to give him an easy path to victory.
Currently, Manchin has a huge financial advantage. According to the campaign finance website Open Secrets, Manchin has $9.4 million on hand. Mooney has only $758,417 in cash, but that is what is left after spending nearly $6 million in his campaign for re-election this year.
However, a competitive race between Manchin and Mooney or another Republican would draw tens of millions of dollars in contributions and spending by political action committees. One D.C. lobbyist familiar with West Virginia politics said of Manchin, “If he wants to, he’ll have $100 million.”
So, it’s anyone’s guess what Manchin will do in 2024, but he concluded our interview Friday with a hint as to his thinking in that moment. “I’m giving everything I got, and I still have more to give, he said. ‘I’ve got a little more in the tank.”
The 2024 election will reveal just how much more.