Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has been peppered with the “will you ever switch parties?” question throughout his time in the Senate due to both his occasional straying from modern Democratic orthodoxy, as well as his professional relationship with Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), which up until this summer was reportedly extremely close and cordial.
Though McConnell himself has dangled the party switch carrot in front of Manchin numerous times, Manchin has resisted the pressure to switch, emphatically stating that he is a “West Virginia Democrat.”
Except, as we’ve also noted, West Virginia is a state that now has more registered Republicans than Democrats – and most of them are of the rock-ribbed conservative variety. Along with that are a fair number of conservative Democrats who have (and will) vote for who in their minds is the most conservative choice – whether Democrat or Republican, something that has served Manchin well during his time in office.
So with 2024 quickly approaching and his other so-called “moderate” Senate colleague Kyrsten Sinema switching from Democrat to independent last Friday, Manchin is facing new questions from reporters on whether he’ll follow suit.
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Instead of declaring himself to be a “West Virginia Democrat,” Manchin switched gears this time around, leaving the door wide open that a party switch could indeed be on the table in the very near future.
“I’ll look at all of these things. I’ve always looked at all those things but I have no intention of doing anything right now. Whether I do something later, I can’t tell you what the future is going to bring,” Manchin told CNN’s Manu Raju in response to the question of whether he’d switch to independent.
“I’m not a Washington Democrat,” Manchin went on to say. “I don’t know what else to tell you. … And if a Washington independent is — we’ll see what happens there. We’ll have to look. People are registering more for independent than any other party affiliation, they are sick and tired of it.”
As I noted before, though Manchin’s first election to the Senate in 2012 for a full term was a cakewalk, his 2018 race was much closer as the state turned even more red, with the Republican nominee Patrick Morrisey losing by just .3 percent (about 19,000 votes) in a race that saw Libertarian nominee Rusty Hollen get 24,000 votes.
Though Manchin has said he hasn’t decided whether he will run again, an attendee from an April 2022 fundraiser that featured Republican mega-donors told CNBC that Manchin indicated he would.
While Manchin prepares to formally make up his mind on if he will run again and if he’ll switch to independent, he already has a declared challenger on the Republican side – Rep. Alex Mooney, who announced his candidacy in November. The state’s Gov. Jim Justice, who switched from Democrat to Republican in 2017 – eight months after taking office, has also hinted he’d consider running as well.
With that in mind, and likely with the understanding that his power in the Senate as a “swing vote” has been somewhat nullified by Senate Democrats now having 51 seats, it sounds like Manchin sees the writing on the wall as it relates to 2024, and is exploring options that potentially could make his path to reelection a little easier.
If so, it further proves that point that many conservatives (here and elsewhere) have made about Manchin before in that for all his claims about his first priority being West Virginians, Manchin may be getting ready to demonstrate once and for all that his first priority is, well, Joe Manchin.