Ending months of speculation about at least one aspect of his plans for the 2024 cycle, West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin revealed on Thursday that he will not seek reelection to the upper chamber next year, in a move that could cause a significant shakeup on the political landscape, as the Associate Press reports.
Manchin, who has been rumored as a possible third-party candidate for president, explained that the decision was not an easy one and was the result of “months of deliberation and long conversations” with loved ones.
The 76-year-old lawmaker issued a statement about the choice made, saying, “I believe in my heart of hearts that I have accomplished what I set out to do for West Virginia.”
“I have made one of the toughest decisions of my life and decided that I will not be running for re-election 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 added.
Though he remained somewhat coy on the other hot topic surrounding him of late, Manchin's words did little to counter suggestions that the soon-to-be former senator has his sights set on a presidential campaign.
Talk of a third-party Manchin run gained steam earlier this year when, as The Hill noted at the time, he headlined an event for the No Labels group – an organization of moderates interested in forming a “unity” ticket as an alternative for voters disillusioned with Republicans and Democrats alike.
Manchin asserted that the lion's share of Americans is “exceedingly frustrated by the growing divide in our political parties and toxic political rhetoric from our elected leaders” and that it was important to explore the possibility of another way forward.
As the Associated Press reported separately, almost immediately after Manchin delivered the news that he would not seek Senate reelection, a group based in Boston filed the necessary Federal Election Commission paperwork to create a draft committee intended to explore a possible third-party bid in which the West Virginia Democrat would team up with Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney for next November's contest.
Interestingly, Manchin representatives did not offer any comment on that group's creation, and Romney -- who has also decided not to seek reelection next year -- denied involvement and reiterated prior statements disclaiming any plans to seek higher office.
Commenting on Manchin's Thursday announcement, No Labels released a statement of its own, praising the lawmaker for serving as “a tireless voice for America's commonsense majority and a longtime ally” of the unity movement.
The statement added that the Senate “will lose a great leader when he leaves, but we commend Senator 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.”
Long willing to play the spoiler to many of his party's more radical legislative priorities, Manchin is once again giving Democrats fits multiple reasons, including the possibility that a third-party run could draw votes away from the party's presidential nominee and the increasing likelihood that his absence will effectively hand control of the upper chamber to Republicans.
Already facing a tough 2024 Senate electoral map Democrats now face an uphill battle in terms of retaining Manchin's seat, with Republican Rep. Alex Mooney and GOP Gov. Jim Justice already having entered the fray, with the latter snagging a coveted endorsement from former President Donald Trump.
As far as the potential implications of the lawmaker's next move for who will claim control of the White House, Rahna Epting of the liberal MoveOn Political Action group opined, “If Joe Manchin runs on the No Labels ticket, he would be responsible for sending Donald Trump back to the White House,” but whether that prediction ultimately proves prescient, only time will tell.