Joe Manchin’s retirement adds fuel to 2024 rumors | ET REALITY


Almost since arriving in Washington, Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia has complained about the partisan nature of the Capitol and insisted that Americans are not as politically divided as the people they send to Congress.

With his announcement Thursday that he will not seek re-election next year, Manchin again raised the possibility that he believes the solution to America’s polarized politics lies in the mirror.

“What I’m going to do is travel the country and talk to see if there’s interest in creating a movement to mobilize the media and unite Americans,” Manchin said in your retirement video.

And he added: “I know that our country is not as divided as Washington would have us believe. We share common values ​​of family, freedom, democracy, dignity and the belief that together we can overcome any challenge. “We need to take America back and not let this divisive hatred tear us further apart.”

What Manchin actually plans to do remains a mystery. His closest collaborators and advisors insist that they do not know. A conservative Democrat who has been one of his party’s key votes in the Senate, he has long held his own counsel on his most important decisions and made a decision at the last minute.

Manchin has flirted this year with No Labels, a group that has made noise about running a centrist candidate for the White House. No Labels officials said Thursday that Manchin’s announcement had taken them by surprise, although they praised him “for stepping forward to lead a long-awaited national conversation about solving America’s biggest challenges.”

“With regard to our No Labels Unity presidential bid, we are gathering input from our members across the country to understand the type of leaders they would like to see in the White House,” the group said in a statement.

Some Manchin allies are skeptical that he will run for president. For one thing, it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to run a credible independent or third-party campaign, and Manchin has never been a formidable fundraiser on his own.

His fellow Senate Democrats and his super PAC subsidized much of his 2018 re-election effort and were willing to do so again next year if he had decided to run. Last weekend he held a fundraiser for his political action committee at Greenbrier, the West Virginia resort owned by Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican running for the state Senate seat.

But the odds of him winning the presidency would be extremely low, especially at this relatively late date.

“I wouldn’t say he can’t or won’t run, but I know he’s never run for anything he didn’t want to win,” said Phil Smith, a longtime lobbyist and official with the United Mine Workers of America and an ally of Mr. Manchin. “If you look at the independent presidential candidates, even the well-known ones, the ones who started so late never got more than 2 or 3 percent of the vote.”

Then there is the question of Mr. Manchin’s age. He is 76 years old and would enter a race with increased attention and concern given the ages of President Biden, 80, and the likely Republican nominee, former President Donald J. Trump, 77.

Mr. Manchin, a former West Virginia University quarterback, remains in good physical condition for a septuagenarian. In May, completed a three mile run in Washington in just over 40 minutes.

One thing Manchin has always enjoyed since winning a special Senate election in 2010, when he was governor of West Virginia, is the attention that comes with being a critical vote when Democrats control the chamber.

That has often given him a platform that has made him popular with cable TV bookers and centrist donors, while drawing the ire of progressive activists in the Democratic Party. This summer he said he was “seriously” thinking about leaving the Democratic Party.

“If you see that Biden is still the Democratic nominee and Trump is still the Republican nominee, I think you really see a large portion of the American electorate, both Republican and Democratic, fed up with both of their parties’ candidates,” the former representative said. Nick Rahall, a fellow West Virginia Democrat who has known Manchin for decades.

For months this year, Manchin has reached out to No Labels, which has so far secured ballot access in 12 states as it seeks to offer an alternative to Biden and Trump. The group’s president, Nancy Jacobson, has told potential donors that the group intends to select a Republican to lead its ticket, a decision that would exclude Manchin if No Labels maintains that position.

A candidate who openly mocks a candidacy without labels, Larry Hogan, former Republican governor of Maryland, released a foreign policy video On Tuesday that looked and sounded like a campaign ad, denouncing isolationism in his party and declaring himself “a Reagan guy.”

Hogan appeared at a Bloomberg event last month and said that when he spoke to No Labels officials and donors, “most of them now assume that it should be a Republican at the top of the list.”

No Labels has methodically moved forward with its potential presidential campaign, unveiling a manifesto (a platform of sorts) in July and holding its own centrist events. They have featured a rotating cast of characters including Manchin, Hogan and Jon Huntsman Jr., former Utah governor and moderate Republican.

The group plans to raise $70 million before a convention in Dallas scheduled for April. But No Labels officials say they will decide whether to announce that campaign before then, possibly after Super Tuesday on March 5, when the Republican presidential primaries may have ended.

The decision could come sooner, as the field of presidential candidates outside the major parties continues to expand.

On Thursday, Jill Stein, whose presence on the ballot in 2016 may have helped secure the White House for Trump, joined Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the iconoclastic vaccine skeptic, and Cornel West, the left-wing academic , as rivals. to the Republican and Democratic candidates. Stein will seek to represent the Green Party, as she did in 2016.

But No Labels’ push to get a spot on the ballot in all 50 states appears to have stalled at 12. Thirty-four states allow a group like No Labels to claim a spot without a candidate, but 16 others and the District of Columbia require a ticket.

“They’re not going to campaign in 50 states,” said Smith, a lobbyist and union leader. “They just aren’t.”

There will be no shortage of unsolicited advice for Manchin from Democrats regarding his plans.

Matt Bennett, co-founder of the centrist Democratic group Third Way, which is organizing efforts to stop Third Way and dissuade Manchin from joining its candidacy, said he was “not concerned” about Manchin running as an independent candidate.

Rahna Epting, executive director of the progressive group MoveOn, said Thursday that Manchin should “reject any approach to the dangerous No Labels ploy.”

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