Joe Manchin won’t seek reelection in 2024, dealing blow to Dems’ Senate map

Joe Manchin won’t seek reelection in 2024, dealing blow to Dems’ Senate map

Joe Manchin will not seek reelection to the Senate, a move that essentially cedes his seat to the GOP in deep-red West Virginia and removes one of Congress’ most prominent centrist voices in either party.

The Mountain State Democrat won his seat in 2010 and hung on since then thanks to a moderate brand that’s given him one of his party’s most conservative records. As he prepared to face popular West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) in a potential Senate race next fall, however, the incumbent senator decided to pack it in after reaching the peak of his influence over the last three years.

“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,” Manchin said in a video statement on Thursday afternoon that jolted Capitol Hill.

Manchin has repeatedly declined to rule out a third-party run for president, possibly on a ticket funded by the deep-pocketed group No Labels. He indicated that he may not be leaving the political scene entirely, saying that he will be “traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle.”

Democrats are skeptical that he would mount a third-party bid that could hand the White House to former President Donald Trump. But Manchin has vocally criticized President Joe Biden’s handling of the party-line tax, climate and health care law he helped shape, the Inflation Reduction Act, and repeatedly criticized Democrats’ more progressive course.

Senate Republicans are almost certain to capture West Virginia in light of Manchin’s retirement; there is almost no Democrat in the conservative state with a shot at winning. Justice will face Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) in the GOP primary next year.

“We like our odds in West Virginia,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The Senate map is highly favorable to Republicans, who need to pick up two seats to win the majority in 2024 — or, if they claim the presidency, only West Virginia. Democrats are hoping for serious challenges to Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), buffeting their defenses as they face tough races in Montana, Ohio, Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

“Democrats have multiple pathways to protect and strengthen our Senate majority and are in a strong position to achieve this goal. In addition to defending our battle-tested incumbents, we’ve already expanded the battleground map to Texas and Florida,” said David Bergstein, a spokesperson for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Manchin’s retirement will continue to hollow out the center of the Senate. His decision follows that of Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a fellow cross-aisle dealmaker who has also chosen to retire. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), who faces a daunting three-way race if she chooses to run again, has yet to announce her intentions for 2024.

The West Virginian’s Senate career is complex: After running on a now-famous ad that depicted him shooting live ammunition at a climate bill, Manchin cut a deal on gun background checks with former Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). He later tangled with then-President Barack Obama and survived a brutal reelection campaign in 2018 that featured harsh attacks from Trump.

Manchin ended up voting to convict Trump twice in impeachment trials and found his groove when Biden became president. After Democrats’ simultaneous Senate takeover, Manchin became the Energy chairman.

Now, Manchin’s fingerprints are all over Biden’s agenda, from a massive bipartisan infrastructure law to the massive 2021 Covid aid. He fought the more progressive version of the party-line social spending bill that Biden initially backed, tanking it in December 2021 and then quietly reshaping it with a lower price tag and more limited scope.

That new law was a triumph for Manchin, delivering money and resources to his state. But it hurt his popularity as Republicans attacked him for supporting its spending and its climate policies.

“Today, West Virginia is attracting more investment, opportunity and jobs than it has in decades,” 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.”

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