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Joe Manchin is "seriously considering" leaving the Democratic Party

So says the West Virginia senator, who is flirting with a third party run for president.

Joe Manchin/Wikimedia Commons

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Joe Manchin said he is seriously considering leaving the Democratic Party. Since Joe Biden became president, the West Virginia senator was often tempted to abandon his Democratic label to don the Republican or Independent label, as his colleague Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) did. At the same time, he has not yet decided whether to seek another term in the Senate or run for president for a third party.

The for-now Democrat spoke Thursday with Hoppy Kercheval, a local radio host, about his political future. “I’m thinking seriously. For me, I have to have peace of mind, basically. The brand has become so bad — the D brand and R brand. In West Virginia, the D brand because it’s [the] national brand. It’s not the Democrats in West Virginia, it’s the Democrats in Washington,” he said.

Kercheval pressed him on his intentions, specifically on whether he would eventually consider leaving the party. “I would think very seriously about that. I’ve been thinking about that for quite some time. I haven’t made any decisions whatsoever on any of my political direction. I want to make sure that my voice is truly an independent voice,” replied the also former West Virginia governor. This is the most open statement regarding a party change that Manchin has ever made.

“When I speak, I want to be able to speak honestly about basically the extremes of the Democratic and Republican Party that are hurting our nation,” he added.

His statements aligned with his current rhetoric, in which he basically openly criticized both parties as an Independent. This continues to fuel theories of a presidential bid underwritten by the No Labels group, which is raising a significant amount of money for a competitive third-party candidate.

The senator participated in events organized by this political group, in which he was very harsh about the current political situation in the United States. “It is clear that most Americans are very frustrated by the growing division in our political parties and the toxic political rhetoric of our elected leaders,” he said mid-July.

Manchin and an uphill re-election bid in the Senate

If he opts for another run for the Upper House, the Democrat will have a more challenging time than in other years. Steve Daines (R-MT), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), successfully recruited Gov. Jim Justice to enter the race.

Despite his classic strategy of moderation in the run-up to the general election, the fact that his next encounter with the polls coincides with the presidential election could be a determining factor in the race. Donald Trump carried his state by 38.9% in 2020, and, should that margin of victory be repeated for the Republican candidate, Manchin would need to get nearly 40% of the electorate to vote for the GOP for president and a Democrat for Senate.

His seat is one of the most coveted (perhaps the most) by the Republican leadership in the upper chamber. “What we know about West Virginia is that it’s very, very red, and we have an extremely popular incumbent governor who has announced his candidacy for the Senate. And we’re going to go all out to win it,” said Mitch McConnell in an interview with CNN.