Joe Manchin is heading back to his roots, but his decision not to seek re-election in West Virginia has left many wondering about his future intentions.
Manchin’s announcement on Thursday that he won’t be running for re-election in 2024 has raised questions about his motivations. Throughout his career, Manchin has displayed a remarkable ability to amass power, making his decision to step away from the political arena all the more intriguing.
While Manchin’s departure might bring relief to Democrats frustrated by his opposition to progressive policies, it also raises new challenges for the party. Firstly, it could jeopardize their already precarious control of the Senate. Secondly, Manchin’s announcement has fueled speculation about a potential third-party presidential bid.
The prospect of a third-party presidential run has gained traction, especially since a strong Republican contender, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, is leading in both primary and general election polls. If the GOP wins the Senate seat, it would mark a significant shift for West Virginia from a deep-blue stronghold to a deep-red one, further endangering the existence of conservative rural-state Democrats.
Manchin’s decision to step down reflects a belief that he may not secure re-election. If a Democrat as prominent as Manchin can’t win in West Virginia, it raises doubts about the prospects of other Democrats in the state.
While Manchin may face criticism from liberals, his victory in 2018 by a margin of fewer than 20,000 votes in a state where Donald Trump won every county by a substantial margin helped secure narrow Democratic Senate majorities.
With Manchin’s exit in 2024, the Democrats’ already fragile 51-49 Senate majority becomes even more uncertain. The party would have to defend vulnerable seats in red states like Montana and Ohio to maintain its hold on power.
Manchin’s decision is also causing consternation in the White House, with which he has had a contentious relationship. He accused White House staff of making “inexcusable” comments when he played a pivotal role in derailing a major climate and social policy bill in 2021.
In his announcement, Manchin mentioned his intention to travel the country, speaking out and exploring the possibility of creating a movement to unite the center and bring Americans together. His carefully chosen words have sparked speculation about a third-party presidential bid, particularly as he is associated with the No Labels group, which is considering supporting an independent candidate. Much like his actions in the Senate, Manchin appears to be deliberately stoking ambiguity and intrigue to position himself as a influential figure in the political landscape.
In a time when both President Joe Biden and a potential opponent, former President Donald Trump, are facing tough re-election battles, any third-party ticket that siphons off even a few votes in swing states could spell trouble for Democrats.
Manchin raised eyebrows in July when he participated in the launch of a No Labels “common sense” platform in New Hampshire, focusing on immigration, healthcare, gun control, and the economy. He intentionally left the door open to the possibility of an independent presidential run, adding to the speculation.
Even before Manchin’s announcement, the likelihood of a disruptive election that could alter the two-party dynamics was increasing. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. recently abandoned a Democratic nomination run and declared his own independent presidential campaign. Former Harvard professor Cornel West has also declared an independent bid. Additionally, Jill Stein, who many Democrats blame for taking votes from Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016, announced her candidacy for the Green Party nomination.
Critics of third-party presidential campaigns often view them as ego-driven endeavors by candidates who have no chance of victory but can influence the outcome by diverting votes from the major parties.
In a year where polls reveal a significant level of dissatisfaction with both Trump and Biden, the allure of third-party candidates is particularly strong. The potential for a contentious presidential campaign with multiple independent candidates could spell trouble for both major parties, as voters may seek alternatives to the typical political matchups.
Joe Manchin’s decision to exit the Senate after the next election reflects his frustration with the divisive nature of contemporary politics and the erosion of bipartisan consensus in American politics. He believes that the current political climate is pushing extremes, paralyzing Congress, and worsening the nation’s problems. Manchin seeks to draw attention to his efforts to address this issue and promote a more united, centrist approach to governance.
Despite his disruptive influence on some of Biden’s legislative agenda, Manchin’s commitment to traditional political norms aligns with the President’s vision for Washington. Manchin’s impact was particularly pronounced during the first two years of Biden’s term when Democrats had a 50-50 Senate majority, and Manchin wielded significant influence over the President’s policy initiatives. His resistance to ambitious progressive goals led to the scaling back of key elements of Biden’s agenda, including climate change. However, this stance made him a controversial figure among liberal Democrats.
Manchin’s farewell to the Senate will contribute to the ongoing transformation of rural states into Republican strongholds, while Democrats increasingly rely on urban and suburban bases for their political power. West Virginia, once a Democratic stronghold, has shifted to the Republican Party, mirroring the broader trend of rural states moving towards the GOP.
Manchin’s deep connection with the people of West Virginia has influenced his political approach, leading him to break with his party on several occasions to support policies aligned with the state’s interests. As a senator, he prioritized the welfare of his constituents and championed federal investments in the state. This dedication to his constituents can be traced back to his mentor, Robert Byrd, whose Senate seat Manchin assumed in 2010.
While the future remains uncertain, Manchin’s legacy as a political figure will be remembered for his dedication to his constituents and his unapologetic approach to securing resources and support for West Virginia. His departure from the Senate marks the end of an era in West Virginia politics and raises questions about his future role in the national political landscape.