West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) indicated this week that he’s open to running for president next year, likely as a third-party candidate.
After his polling numbers tanked in his home state, the right-wing Democrat announced last week that he wouldn’t seek another term as senator, prompting speculation that he might be eyeing a presidential run.
Earlier this week, Manchin told NBC News’s “Meet the Press” moderator Kristen Welker that he would “absolutely” consider running — but that he would first travel the country to see if there was an openness among voters to a supposedly “moderate” candidate like himself.
Although Manchin’s departure from the Senate means his seat will likely go to a Republican next year, many progressives are celebrating Manchin’s departure from Congress, as Manchin has repeatedly staked out anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion stances. He has blocked numerous measures in Democrats’ plan to address the climate crisis in the Inflation Reduction Act, and opposed the passage of a bill guaranteeing sick leave for U.S. workers. His obstruction in the Senate also led to the expiration of the child tax credit, which thrust millions of children back into poverty.
On a Wednesday call with West Virginia-based journalists, Manchin reiterated that he was open to running, but added that he didn’t want to be a “spoiler” candidate.
“If they said, ‘You’re the only person to do it,’ I’ll do whatever I can to save this nation,” Manchin said. But he also said it would be “dangerous” for Trump to win the presidency again, adding:
You can’t have this visceral hatred spewing out of every time you give a speech, denigrating Americans. And the only good American is the one that likes you and supports you; the only fair election is the one you win; the only laws pertain to everybody but you.
Some political experts believe a Manchin presidential run would help Trump win, as Democratic-leaning voters whose politics are further to the right than President Joe Biden could move to Manchin, granting Trump a plurality of votes in several key swing states.
But while fears of a Manchin presidential run have some Democrats panicked, others view the possibility of Manchin running for president with indifference, noting that his right-wing views could make it more likely that he would siphon votes away from Trump.
Although recent polling suggests that American voters want more candidates to run for the presidency next year, it’s unlikely that voters will back Manchin in a 2024 presidential run.
In a Quinnipiac University poll that was published this week, 52 percent of Americans say they want more presidential candidates to choose from. The rate is higher, however, among younger voters, with 65 percent of voters between the ages of 18-35 saying they want more candidates to choose from. Voters in that demographic generally have far more progressive politics than Manchin.
Manchin would also face difficult odds as a third-party candidate, as a plurality of the country (40 percent) views him unfavorably, according to a Economist/YouGov poll published this week. That same survey found that only 24 percent of voters have a positive view of Manchin, while 36 percent say they don’t know enough about him to form an opinion.
Even among the self-identified moderates in that poll, who would likely make up Manchin’s main base of support, the West Virginia senator’s favorability rating is a net -11 points.
“There is simply no evidence that Manchin is well positioned to appeal to any distinct block of third-party voters,” Elie Mystal at The Nation pointed out. “The myth of Manchin as some kind of independent iconoclast has always been more powerful than the objective reality of Manchin: a coal lobbyist nobody trusts who lives on a houseboat.”