Democratic Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia declared on Thursday that he will not seek reelection, stirring discussions about a potential independent presidential campaign and complicating the Democratic Party’s prospects of maintaining Senate control beyond 2025.
“After months of deliberation and long conversations with my family, I believe in my heart of hearts that I have accomplished what I set out to do for West Virginia,” Manchin, who had been at the center of a monthslong waiting game in Washington as he mulled his future, said in a statement.
Manchin’s decision to leave the Senate raises significant challenges for Democrats in retaining his seat, especially as West Virginia predominantly supports Republican candidates.
As a notably conservative Democrat and former governor, Manchin successfully overcame Republican opposition, including a narrow victory in 2018 by less than 20,000 votes.
With the Democrats holding a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate, the party faces tough battles in several Republican-leaning states in the upcoming elections, such as Montana, Ohio, and West Virginia.
Jim Justice, the Republican Governor of West Virginia who is approaching the end of his term, has confirmed his candidacy for Manchin’s Senate seat. He will compete against Congressman Alex Mooney in the Republican primary.
Reacting to Manchin’s announcement, Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana, who is in charge of the Senate Republicans’ electoral efforts, said succinctly, “We like our odds in West Virginia.”
On Thursday, Manchin emphasized his ongoing commitment to politics, hinting at a potential independent run for the presidency in light of the general dissatisfaction with both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, the likely Democratic and Republican nominees for the next election.
“I have made one of the toughest decisions of my life and decided that I will not be running for reelection to the United States Senate, 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,” Manchin said.
“Nothing is off the table,” one source close to Manchin said, adding, “No specific decisions have been made other than a commitment to find a way to change the country’s political dialogue.”
The office of Senator Joe Manchin has declined to comment further, directing inquiries to his earlier video announcement.
In a written response, President Joe Biden praised the collaborative efforts he and Manchin have undertaken, acknowledging the Senator’s extensive contributions. “Joe, Gayle, and the entire Manchin family should feel proud of the Senator’s service to West Virginia and to our country,” he remarked. “I look forward to continuing our work together to get things done for the American people.”
Manchin, a Senator since 2010, is known for his moderate stances, often posing challenges to his party’s progressive wing. He has leveraged the Democrats’ narrow Senate majority to negotiate significant changes in key Biden administration policies, particularly in areas of government expenditure.
Manchin played a pivotal role in the enactment of Biden’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act. His crucial vote helped pass this Democrats-only legislation, which aimed at reducing the deficit, boosting both renewable and non-renewable energy production in the U.S., allowing Medicare to negotiate certain drug prices, and capping insulin costs for seniors at $35.
As speculation grew about his political future, whether he would run for reelection or leave the Senate for other pursuits, Manchin had earlier indicated he would decide in December.
He has openly criticized the binary nature of the U.S. political system, warning that without reform, it could lead to the nation’s downfall.
During the summer, Manchin participated in a New Hampshire forum held by No Labels, a group contemplating a bipartisan “unity” ticket for the 2024 election. No Labels, in their statement, lauded Manchin as “a tireless voice for America’s commonsense majority and a longtime ally.”
“The Senate will lose a great leader when he leaves,” the group said.
No Labels acknowledged its own plans for 2024, which it said have still not been determined: “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.”
In his Thursday statement, Manchin expressed disappointment over the political divide in the capital and reiterated the necessity for a candidate who can unify differing viewpoints.
“Every incentive in Washington is designed to make our politics extreme. The growing divide between Democrats and Republicans is paralyzing Congress and worsening our nation’s problems. The majority of Americans are just plain worn out,” Manchin said.
“I know our country isn’t as divided as Washington wants us to believe,” he said. “We share common values of family, freedom, democracy, dignity and a belief that together we can overcome any challenge. We need to take back America and not let this divisive hatred further pull us apart.”