Manchin Says He Will Not Seek Reelection to Senate
WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced Thursday that he will not seek reelection in 2024, a decision that was almost instantly seen as handing the Republicans the seat after next year’s election.
In a written statement, Manchin said he came to “one of the toughest decisions” of his life after “months of deliberation and long conversations” with his family.
“I will not be running for reelection to the U.S. Senate,” the statement continued. “But 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 Americans together.”
What the centrist Democrat didn’t say was whether he’s considering making a third-party run for the White House, a move he’s been teasing since July, when he raised eyebrows by appearing at a No Labels town hall in New Hampshire.
No Labels was founded in 2010 as a centrist rampart against the loud and divisive voices on either side of the political spectrum.
Initially relatively low key in terms of its activity, the nonprofit recently stepped up its game, presenting itself as a possible “unity” party, and announcing it planmed to raise $70 million for a candidate-in-waiting.
Since that appearance, Manchin has repeatedly spoken of the dysfunction in Washington and absence of bipartisanship.
“I’m having a hard time — I really am,” he said last month while touring a Charleston, West Virginia, metal stamping plant.
“The two-party system, unless it changes, will be the downfall of our country,” he said.
In September, during an appearance at the 2023 Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, Manchin made the case for a third political party, arguing that an independent candidate could bring together a deeply divided country.
“We are in trouble and I’ve never been more concerned about the challenges we have,” he told Tribune co-founder Evan Smith at the event.
When Smith couldn’t get Manchin to say one way or another whether he’d be running for president, he seized on the senator’s observation that reelecting former President Donald Trump would be a real danger for the country.
With that Smith noted that many believe a third-party candidate would increase the chance Trump could win, by siphoning votes from President Joe Biden.
Manchin pushed back by noting that nearly a third of the U.S. population has negative views of both the Republican and Democratic parties and that running as an independent could be a viable way to address the challenges presented by those divisions.
“I’m not going to take any risk to jeopardize my country and the democracy that we have,” Manchin said. “But to sit back and do nothing and allow the country to keep going this way?”
In a statement released Thursday, a spokesperson for No Labels said, “Sen. Joe Manchin is a tireless voice for America’s commonsense majority and a longtime ally of the No Labels movement.
“The Senate will lose a great leader when he leaves, but we commend Sen. Manchin for stepping up to lead a long overdue national conversation about solving America’s biggest challenges, including inflation, an insecure border, out-of-control debt and growing threats from abroad.”
“Regarding our No Labels Unity presidential ticket, 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. As we have said from the beginning, we will make a decision by early 2024 about whether we will nominate a Unity presidential ticket and who will be on it,” the spokesperson said.
In a video announcing his decision not to run for reelection, Manchin spoke of his childhood in the small coal mining town of Farmington, West Virginia, and of his father, John Manchin, the owner of a furniture store.
He recalled the day the local state representative visited the store and asked his father for a favor, saying, “you owe me for all the things I’ve done for your little town.”
When the man left, Manchin said, he turned to his father and said, “Now wait a minute, isn’t helping Farmington that man’s job?”
“That moment defined the difference between self-service and public service,” the senator said on Thursday. “When I told my dad that I was going to run for office, he said, ‘Politics is a bad business, son, I’m telling you right now. Stay out of it.’”
Manchin said he responded by reminding his father of the line from President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
“I was 13 when I first heard it and I’m still inspired by it,” Manchin said, adding, “It took him a minute, but my dad said that he would support me running if I made a vow to serve all people, friend or foe, and not just myself.
“The promise that I made to my dad all those years ago has been my north star. I’ve never cared about where good ideas came from and I never blamed one side for creating a problem nor believed only one side could fix them,” he continued.
“When America is at her best, we get things done by putting country before party, working across the aisle and finding common ground. Many times, this approach has landed me in hot water, but the fight to unite has been well worth it,” he said.
“To the West Virginians who have put their trust in me and fought side by side to make our state better — it has been an honor of my life to serve you,” Manchin added.
The announcement prompted a simple but immediate response from Steve Daines, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
“We like our odds in West Virginia,” he said.
And indeed, Manchin’s departure from the Senate race is widely seen as a setback for Democrats hoping to hold onto what is now a very slim majority in the chamber consisting of 48 Democrats and three independents
The Republicans currently have two candidates hoping to win the GOP nomination in West Virginia.
One is state Rep. Alex X. Mooney, an ally of Trump’s while has the backing of the Club for Growth, the conservative political action committee, and Gov. Jim Justice, a former Democrat who turned Republican.
A recent poll conducted for the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce showed Justice beating Manchin in a hypothetical Senate contest 51%-38%, while Manchin would narrowly edge Mooney, 45%-41% in the same contest.