Classic Joe Manchin

Joe Manchin always keeps us on our toes.

It is not that Manchin is unpredictable, exactly. No, it is just that the veteran West Virginia Democrat—oops, I mean Independent—always keeps his options open. His announcement Friday that he has left the Democratic Party and switched to “no party affiliation” is classic Manchin.

On one hand, the decision helps Manchin establish his credentials as an independent voice as he attempts to expand his role with Americans Together. The organization, run by his daughter Heather, is trying to tone down the extreme rhetoric from both parties and search for solutions instead of scoring political points.

That mission is central to Manchin’s nature. Throughout his life he has been a politician who brokered deals that both parties could live with. “I have never seen America through a partisan lens,” he said in a statement announcing his party switch.

Manchin appears anxious to leave the political tribalism of Washington behind and travel the country to see if he can energize The Great Middle.

However, on the other hand, the timing of his announcement is worth noting.

His move came just one day before a deadline to switch from one of the four recognized political parties in the state to independent/no party affiliation and still qualify to run for office as an independent in West Virginia in the General Election.

If he chooses—and that’s a huge “if”—Manchin would need to gather enough valid signatures from registered voters* and file the required candidacy forms by the deadline of August 1st to be on the ballot in November for whatever office he would choose.

That leaves Manchin’s options open for a few more weeks, and that brings up again the possibility of him running for Governor.  I keep hearing that he does not want to do it, that he supports his long-time friend Steve Williams, The Democratic mayor of Huntington who is the party’s nominee to take on Patrick Morrisey.

But Manchin, who relished his time as Governor, cannot imagine Morrisey in the position. Manchin is worried that Williams will not be able to raise funds and put together the kind of campaign necessary to have a chance of winning.

However, Manchin is telling people around him that he would only consider getting in the race if Williams decided to withdraw.  Williams said on Talkline last week that he has every intention of staying in the race.

And finally there is this: At every opportunity, Manchin says he wants to do whatever he can to help his state and the country, and I have no doubt about that. But he also has a deep-seated desire to be relevant. It is hard to imagine a post-politics Manchin waking up at 5 a.m. with nowhere to be and no calls to answer.

That would be an anguish-filled existence for someone who has spent his entire life in the middle of the political and public policy fray.

*(One percent of the total number of votes cast in the last election for the office the candidate wants to run for.  If Manchin chose to run for Governor as an independent, he would need 7,689 valid signatures.)



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