Ending months of speculation about West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin’s (D) re-election plans, the veteran politician announced yesterday that he will not seek a third full term next year.
The move is not particularly surprising. Sen. Manchin’s approval ratings have turned upside-down, West Virginia now has more registered Republicans than Democrats, and he faced a very difficult re-election campaign likely against the state’s Republican two-term Governor, Jim Justice*.
In his retirement statement, Sen. Manchin said, “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.”
Much speculation will surround what may be the Senator’s next political move. Another part of his retirement statement suggests he is not finished in politics. Sen. Manchin continued saying, “while I will not be running for re-election to the United States Senate, 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.”
Mr. Manchin previously indicated that he was not closing the door on running for President, either as an Independent or a minor party standard bearer. At no time did he publicly consider a direct challenge to President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination.
As time has progressed, the minor candidate field is growing. As we know, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has already cast aside his Democratic challenge to President Biden and is attempting to qualify for ballot position as an Independent candidate. Polling suggests he is already within the 20-percentile realm nationally, and his support could grow. It is likely Mr. Kennedy will become the most successful Independent or minor party candidate in decades.
The Kennedy standing already suggests the likelihood that he will exceed 1992 Reform Party candidate Ross Perot’s 19% popular vote figure. Whether or not Mr. Kennedy could win any states and record electoral votes is undetermined but doubtful. The last minor party candidate to earn electoral votes was then-former Alabama Gov. George Wallace running on the American Independent Party ballot line back in 1968. In that election, Mr. Wallace captured five states for a total of 46 electoral votes.
The most discussed availability for a ballot position is with the No Labels Party. This group has been working for more than a year to obtain ballot position in all 50 states and has so far qualified in ten.
It is unlikely, however, that No Labels will want to feature Sen. Manchin as their presidential nominee. They are likely to field a Republican, at this point probably former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan who is the party’s national co-chairman, because this group desires former President Donald Trump’s defeat. It is commonly viewed that a Manchin candidacy, because of his potential appeal to centrist Democrats, would wrest more support from President Biden than Mr. Trump.
The Libertarian Party, who in the 2020 election secured ballot position in 48 states and the District of Columbia (in the two domains where the party did not qualify, Alabama and Tennessee, their candidate ran as an Independent), will likely file a candidate but Sen. Manchin would be viewed as too liberal to become this group’s standard bearer.
It is not out of the realm of possibility that we will soon see speculation suggesting that Sen. Manchin would be a strong Vice Presidential running mate for Mr. Kennedy, but many would question whether this pairing would be a good fit for either man.
The Senator qualifying as an Independent at this point in the election cycle would be difficult. As Dr. Cornel West, who decided to run as an Independent and not on the Green Party ballot line, is finding, managing 50 sets of state requirements just to secure a ballot position is a daunting task, and even more so starting at this late date.
Joe Manchin now becomes the seventh Senate incumbent not to seek re-election and fifth Democrat. Republicans converting this seat, a strong likelihood since the Democrats have a sparse political bench and clearly no heir apparent to Sen. Manchin, would basically bring both parties to 50-50 status as the two sides battle for majority control in next year’s election.
Do you like this page?