Just as the average person wakes up in the morning and doesn't know whether to eat cereal or scrambled eggs for breakfast, Joe Manchin's dilemma is to seek another term in the Senate or opt for a third-party presidential candidacy. In recent weeks, the Democratic senator shared his concerns about what to do with important political personalities, for example, Bill Clinton.
The West Virginia senator is standing in a difficult position. Since arriving in the Senate in 2010, he has had a habit of turning a Republican state blue every six years, but this time it could be even more unlikely. Donald Trump took the state by 38.9% in 2020, so to retain his seat he would need to get almost 40% of the electorate to vote for the GOP for president and a Democrat for the Senate.
Manchin also looks fondly at an independent presidential bid from No Labels, a political group that is raising funds to field a strong candidate in all 50 states. Indeed, he has already spoken at some of his events and used a presidential speech.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin told CNN that his decision to travel to New Hampshire with the group No Labels – which is pushing for a third-party centrist candidate – is not related to any such plans to seek the White House as an independent. https://t.co/0Tm7oBvgjp pic.twitter.com/qic0pMV5TF
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) July 13, 2023
"Our political discourse is lacking engaged discussions around common sense solutions to solve the pressing problems facing our nation. I am looking forward to modeling this type of conversation with my good friend, Governor Huntsman, and the No Labels community. The things that unite Americans are much stronger than things that divide us and I am confident that will be evident throughout our discussion," he said at one of these events.
The Senate or the Presidency?
According to The Washington Post, Manchin met with former President Clinton to discuss his future and does not rule out leaving politics outright. The senator requested the meeting after learning that the former president was in the Hamptons. The two have had contact in recent years, especially since Joe Biden entered the White House, as he asked Clinton to convince the moderate to support his agenda in Congress.
Apparently, Clinton does not agree very much with his idea of entering the presidential race, something that would benefit Donald Trump. "In his meeting with Manchin, Clinton made an aggressive pitch that Manchin should absolutely not run for president, warning that his candidacy would only serve to bolster former President Donald Trump, the current front-runner for the Republican nomination. Beyond that, Clinton largely listened as the family discussed the various options, one of the people familiar with the conversation said." Many Democrats have spoken out against this alternative, saying they believe it would hurt Biden more than Trump.
NEW: Inside Joe Manchin’s private meeting - including one with Bill Clinton - where he grapples with his political future.
-Run for reelection in WV as an independent⁰-Run for president with No Labels⁰-Retire from politics
— Tyler Pager (@tylerpager) September 14, 2023
In addition, in other meetings Manchin had with Democratic donors, they encouraged him to try to renew his seat in the Senate. However, Manchin is clear that he only has a chance of winning another six-year term if he runs as an independent. If he opts for the latter path, he would join Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), who left the Democratic Party at the end of 2022.
What do the polls say?
The polls conducted by the group have a clear pattern: the former president would benefit more from a third competitive candidacy, or at least this is what was reflected in key states.
According to the internal poll they conducted in Arizona, Trump would be four points ahead of Biden in a head-to-head, but with another strong contender, the gap would extend to ten points. Indeed, this is the state where a potential No Labels candidate would do best, with 29% of the vote.
— Fox News Sunday (@FoxNewsSunday) August 27, 2023
The scenario is identical in Georgia and North Carolina, where the head-to-head difference is four and eight respectively, which extends to nine and eight with an independent aggregate. However, an independent candidate would drop to 19%.
The effect would be similar in Pennsylvania, a state considered key for Republican aspirations to return to the White House, where Trump would obtain 43%, Biden 38% and the third candidate 19%. Taking the latter option off the table, Democrats and Republicans would tie at 50%.
The last key state is Wisconsin, which in 2020 was defined by just 0.4% or 20,000 votes. The trend there is mixed, as Democrats and Republicans split victories in the midterm elections: Ron Johnson (R) renewed his Senate seat and Tony Evers (D) renewed his stay in the governor's mansion. According to No Labels internal polls, Biden would defeat Trump one-on-one, 53% to 47%. Now, with a strong, independent third option, the Republican would rebound and carry the state and its 10 electors.