As Manchin Exits the Senate, WH Buzz Begins

Conservative Dem could draw 'double haters' of Biden, Trump if he runs for president
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 10, 2023 9:59 AM CST
A Manchin Run for the WH Could Pull In the 'Double Haters'
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., chairs a hearing at the Capitol in Washington on June 1, 2023.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Joe Manchin's announcement Thursday that he won't be running for reelection next year to represent West Virginia in the US Senate has Democrats now sweating over the loss of one of their own seats, putting the party's razor-thin 51-49 majority in peril. Now, new buzz is swirling around the 76-year-old conservative Democratic senator, this time regarding whether he's planning on running for president in 2024 on a third-party ticket. The New York Times notes that "what ... Manchin actually plans to do remains a mystery"—even those within his inner circle claim they don't know his thoughts—but that isn't stopping the speculation mill from going into overdrive. More on what's being said about Manchin, who was first elected to the Senate in a 2010 special election:

  • No Labels alignment? Whispers of a possible Manchin run for the White House ramped up in July, when the senator appeared in New Hampshire at an event for centrist political group No Labels, per Forbes. He told the crowd there that "if I get in a race, I'm going to win" and cryptically mentioned that same month to CNN that "I've never ruled out anything or ruled in anything."

  • A door left cracked: In September, Manchin further "teased" a run, per the Texas Tribune, though he didn't commit and noted, "I'm not going to take any risk to jeopardize my country and the democracy that we have." Still, he added, could he just "sit back and do nothing and allow the country to keep going this way?"
  • Statement from No Labels: The New York Times notes that the group seemed thrown by Manchin's announcement this week, but not necessarily unhappy about the prospect of him running for president, noting in a statement that Manchin had "[stepped] up to lead a long-overdue national conversation about solving America's biggest challenges." No Labels added: "We are gathering input from our members across the country to understand the kind of leaders they would like to see in the White House."
  • Appeal to the middle: Bloomberg notes that a Manchin run could prove attractive to the "double haters": those who are sick of both President Biden and former President Trump, at the moment the presumed nominees of their respective parties. A Thursday Bloomberg poll puts that dissatisfied demographic at about one-fifth of voters in swing states. Right now, RFK Jr. is filling that spot, but more votes could swing to Manchin if he enters the race—and the current president could be on the losing end of things if that happens. "Anybody running from the center would be dangerous for [Biden]," says Jim Kessler of Democratic centrist group Third Way.

  • Other Dems under the microscope: With Manchin exiting the Senate, that makes reelection for Sens. Jon Tester (Montana) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Democrats in red states, even more critical, notes Axios. "You can bet that every dollar national Republicans would have spent in West Virginia is now coming to Montana," Tester said in a recent fundraising promo.
  • A 'complicated legacy': That's how Axios frames Manchin's time in the Senate, noting that he had no issue stymieing Democratic legislation or nominations if he wasn't on board, or wagging a finger at Biden's agenda. But the historic $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act signed by Biden last year went through with Manchin's help, even though the senator's green light "took a sledgehammer to Manchin's image back home in West Virginia."
  • Skeptics: So why would Manchin want to risk scrapping that legacy, as muddled as it is, by being a 2024 spoiler? Some Dems, including Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, don't think he will. "I cannot imagine a world in which Joe Manchin would do anything to help Donald Trump get elected," Warner says, per CNN. Others note that Manchin isn't known for doing the hefty kind of fundraising necessary for a presidential campaign, and that he would be a long shot for the Oval Office. "I wouldn't say that he can't or won't run, but I know he hasn't run for anything that he doesn't want to win, ever," lobbyist and Manchin ally Phil Smith tells the Times.
(More Joe Manchin stories.)

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