Joe Manchin of West Virginia
Joe Manchin of West Virginia

Sen­a­tor Joe Manchin of West Vir­ginia announced today that he decid­ed against seek­ing reelec­tion in 2024 and will leave the cham­ber at the end of his term.

“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. 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 said in a state­ment post­ed to his U.S. Sen­ate web­site.

The state­ment was accom­pa­nied by a video also announc­ing the deci­sion.

Manchin calls him­self a Demo­c­rat, but a lot of Demo­c­ra­t­ic activists view him as an old school right winger who hap­pens to cau­cus with Democ­rats. On seem­ing­ly a bil­lion dif­fer­ent occa­sions, Manchin has worked to sab­o­tage Pres­i­dent Biden’s agen­da and thwart pro­gres­sive caus­es, from repro­duc­tive rights to vot­ing rights and cli­mate jus­tice. Along with Kyrsten Sine­ma, Manchin notably oppos­es get­ting rid of the fil­i­buster so that the Sen­ate can oper­ate democratically.

It is because of Manchin that the Child Tax Cred­it expired, which is hurt­ing Pres­i­dent Biden’s efforts to fight pover­ty and lift up low­er income families.

Manchin also infu­ri­at­ed Demo­c­ra­t­ic activists and state leg­is­la­tors across the coun­try, along with many of his own col­leagues, when he stood in the way of Build Back Bet­ter’s pas­sage in the Sen­ate last Congress.

The White House nego­ti­at­ed with him to secure his vote for the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act after Build Back Bet­ter was shelved. Manchin has seem­ing­ly regret­ted that deal, com­plain­ing pub­licly that the admin­is­tra­tion is imple­ment­ing the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act in ways he does­n’t support.

(Cue the sound of a thou­sand tiny violins.)

Manchin has, how­ev­er, gen­er­al­ly been will­ing to sup­port Pres­i­dent Biden’s nom­i­nees, which has been cru­cial because Democ­rats have a very slim major­i­ty and some­times haven’t been able to spare a sin­gle vote to win on the floor.

Manchin is con­sid­er­ing run­ning as an inde­pen­dent can­di­date against Biden for Pres­i­dent. Despite that, the White House put out a state­ment react­ing to the retire­ment news, offer­ing well wish­es and heap­ing praise on Manchin.

Said the President:

“For more than forty years — as a state leg­is­la­tor, a Sec­re­tary of State, a Gov­er­nor, and a Sen­a­tor — Joe Manchin has ded­i­cat­ed him­self to serv­ing the peo­ple of his beloved West Vir­ginia. Dur­ing my time as Vice Pres­i­dent and now as Pres­i­dent, Joe and I have worked togeth­er to get things done for hard­work­ing families.”

“From the Bipar­ti­san Infra­struc­ture Law – which is upgrad­ing America’s aging infra­struc­ture, to the PACT Act – which is mak­ing sure our vet­er­ans get the care they deserve, to the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act – which is strength­en­ing our ener­gy secu­ri­ty and low­er­ing pre­scrip­tion drug costs for our seniors, to the most mean­ing­ful gun safe­ty leg­is­la­tion in three decades, we’ve made real progress. I was also proud when Joe vot­ed to make his­to­ry and con­firm Ketan­ji Brown Jack­son as the first Black woman to serve on the Unit­ed States Supreme Court.”

“Joe, Gayle, and the entire Manchin fam­i­ly should feel proud of the Senator’s ser­vice to West Vir­ginia and to our coun­try. I look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing our work togeth­er to get things done for the Amer­i­can people.”

That is a tru­ly kind and gen­er­ous state­ment that pur­pose­ful­ly omits most of what I’ve said here in this post. Will Manchin respond by work­ing to under­mine Biden’s reelec­tion, as he has hint­ed repeat­ed­ly he just might do?

Manchin, sev­en­ty-six, is not much younger than either Biden or Don­ald Trump. He has been in the Sen­ate since 2010. Before that, he was the Gov­er­nor and Sec­re­tary of State of West Vir­ginia. He entered pol­i­tics at a time when West Vir­ginia was a rock sol­id Demo­c­ra­t­ic bas­tion. Those days are now over and Manchin is the only Demo­c­rat serv­ing in fed­er­al or statewide office.

Manchin last won reelec­tion in 2018, a Demo­c­ra­t­ic wave year. His chances of win­ning in 2024 weren’t good. His suc­ces­sor Jim Jus­tice (the cur­rent Repub­li­can gov­er­nor of West Vir­ginia) is run­ning against him, and he like­ly would have had to share a bal­lot with Don­ald Trump (who many of his con­stituents love).

Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­er­ship had urged him to run again, but his deci­sion to stand down is for the best. Manch­in’s depar­ture from the Sen­ate, along with Sine­ma’s, will result in a more unit­ed Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus that does­n’t have mem­bers work­ing from with­in to pre­vent long over­due changes to the Sen­ate’s anti­quat­ed rules.

It will also prompt Sen­ate Democ­rats to look else­where for oppor­tu­ni­ties to pre­serve their major­i­ty, rather than com­mit­ting huge sums of mon­ey to defend a dis­loy­al incum­bent in a state with an elec­torate that adores Don­ald Trump.

The par­ty will be most­ly on defense in 2024.

Democ­rats have sev­er­al sen­a­tors run­ning in states that pre­vi­ous­ly vot­ed for Trump, like Sher­rod Brown of Ohio and Jon Tester of Mon­tana, where­as Repub­li­cans have very few vul­ner­a­ble incum­bents. That makes the map dif­fi­cult and the math tough. Democ­rats can’t afford to lose any of their incum­bents or sur­ren­der any open seats to Repub­li­cans. They must win across the board in the remain­ing com­pet­i­tive races or the major­i­ty will be gone.

How­ev­er, Democ­rats demon­strat­ed last year they could win across the board even in a midterm cycle that was sup­posed to be a “red wave”. Pun­dits sug­gest­ed they might strug­gle, but for the first time in a cen­tu­ry, no incum­bent sen­a­tor lost. The Democ­rats were able to reelect all their mem­bers in a tough environment.

They are not to be count­ed out.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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