“Manchin for Governor” is more than just a rumor

The talk about the possibility of Joe Manchin running for West Virginia Governor again is real. As MetroNews’s Brad McElhinny reported last week, two sources close to Manchin have confirmed that the former Democratic Governor is being encouraged to enter the race.

One source said that much of the lobbying is coming from moderate Republicans who are reluctant to support their party’s nominee, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. “Many Republicans who believe Manchin did a good job as Governor are encouraging him to run again,” one source told me.

Manchin, who decided earlier not to run for re-election to the U.S. Senate, appeared to be heading for retirement from political office. He had grown weary of the extreme political polarization and planned to spend his future working with his Americans Together organization run by his daughter, Heather, which pushes back against political extremism on both sides.

However, Morrisey’s narrow win in the four-way Republican Primary for Governor earlier this month, ignited an effort to recruit Manchin to challenge Morrisey. That puts Manchin in an awkward position because Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, who was unopposed as the Democratic nominee for Governor, and Manchin are longtime friends.

“Unless Joe Manchin is the most duplicitous person on the face of the earth, which I don’t believe he is because he’s been a friend for over 40 years now, I don’t see that these rumors have any legs,” Williams told McElhinny last week. 

However, they are more than just rumors. Manchin attended an event at the Greenbrier Resort last week where the lobbying for him to run intensified. “He was bombarded,” said one source close to Manchin. And I continue to hear that pitches are coming from Republicans with financial resources who are reluctant to back Morrisey.

State GOP Chairman Matt Herridge believes those reports are overblown. “Republican voters spoke loud and clear in selecting Patrick Morrisey as the nominee and the next Governor of West Virginia,” Herridge told MetroNews. Yes, Morrisey won a tough race, but he finished with just 33 percent of the vote, so 67 percent of Republicans and independents voted for someone else.

Manchin is also motivated by his antipathy toward Morrisey. They met in a rough-and-tumble Senate race in 2018, which Manchin won by just three points (49.6%-46.3%), and there is no love lost between the two. Manchin, who enjoyed his time as Governor, does not trust Morrisey to be a competent leader of the state.

However, it would be a mistake to underestimate Morrisey. He is a tireless campaigner and proven fundraiser who packs conservative credentials in a deeply red state. He has now won statewide races seven times counting Primary Elections and confides that he has learned from his campaign mistakes in the 2018 loss.

Of course, the Manchin for Governor campaign may never happen. Several pieces would have to fall into place for that to occur, including Williams bowing out, which at this point it does not sound as though he is willing to do.

Still, this is political intrigue worth watching. Stay tuned.


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