Eight quick takes on U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s announcement that he is not running for re-election:
Why isn’t he running for re-election? Manchin’s nature is to try to work together to achieve goals and he is famously fed up with the increasingly polarized politics in Washington. He believes the country is being pulled apart by bitter partisanship. As he said in his statement, “When America is at her best, we get things done by putting the country before party, working across the aisle and finding common ground.”
Where is the credit? Manchin was instrumental in getting the Inflation Reduction Act through Congress. The law includes billions for green energy-related projects that will benefit his home state. In addition, he also got language included to finish the Mountain Valley Pipeline. However, it was proving difficult for him to get credit for the accomplishments because many in the state saw him as kowtowing to President Biden. That was frustrating for him.
Why now? Manchin kept saying he would announce his political plans early next year, but there was increasing pressure for him to decide. Manchin was struggling mightily with the decision, flipping back and forth between running for re-election or trying a third-party run for president.
What’s next? Manchin made it pretty clear in his statement that he is going to explore a third-party/independent run for president. “What I will be doing is traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring America together.” Manchin is among the favorites, along with former Maryland Gov. Republican Larry Hogan, of the No Labels organization that is considering creating a Democrat/Republican unity ticket for 2024.
So, will he run for president? That depends. As he said, he will travel around the country and see if there is interest in a third way. The polls clearly show a large swath of voters who are dissatisfied with both Biden and Trump and are interested in another option. However, are there enough voters who want a middle way? Manchin must think so. “I know our country isn’t as divided as Washington wants us to believe,” he said.
Can he win? History suggests neither he nor any other third-party candidate can. Ross Perot received 19 percent of the popular vote in 1992, but he didn’t win any state, so he collected no electoral votes. George Wallace got 14 percent of the popular vote in 1968, but he won five southern states (Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia and Alabama), so he collected 46 electoral votes and came in a distant third behind Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. So, a winning third-party/independent run is an extreme long shot.
What if he runs and loses? There was a hot rumor for about a year that Manchin wanted to be the next president of WVU after Gordon Gee retires. However, Manchin said on Talkline recently that he was not interested. Manchin would have to do something because he is in constant motion. It is hard to imagine him coming to a full stop.
2024 seat flip: Manchin was the last best hope for Democrats to hold on to the Senate seat in the 2024 election. With him out, the way is clear for a flip to Republican. Current Republican Gov. Jim Justice is running for Senate and has a huge lead over Republican Rep. Alex Mooney.