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.
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.