Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) announced Thursday he would not seek reelection in 2024, scrambling Democrats’ plans to hold onto their Senate majority in 2024 and raising their fears that he could get involved in the presidential race as a third-party candidate.
“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,” Manchin said in a video posted to X. “I have made one of the toughest decisions of my life and decided that I will not be running for reelection to the United States Senate.”
Manchin, 76, had defied political gravity by holding onto his seat in a deeply red state but would have faced long odds against either Gov. Jim Justice or Rep. Alex Mooney (W.Va.), who are running in the GOP primary next year.
Faced with what he knew would probably be the race of his life, Manchin was weighing retiring from politics altogether or running for president as a third-party candidate backed by the centrist group No Labels.
His announcement video suggests he has not chosen the retirement path just yet, as he said he planned to travel the country to gauge “if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together.”
When reached after the announcement, Manchin spokeswoman Sam Runyon declined to comment on whether Manchin planned to pursue a presidential run.
A No Labels spokeswoman said the group would make the decision by early 2024 whether to nominate a ticket and who would be on it.
Whatever he decides to do next, his decision not to run for his seat sets back Democratic hopes for 2024, when they face a brutal map. The party enjoys a narrow 51-49 majority right now, and must defend vulnerable incumbents in the red states of Montana and Ohio, as well as in purple states including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin.
Democratic senators, who have in the past expressed frustration with Manchin as he blocked some of President Biden’s legislative priorities, had been trying hard to persuade Manchin to run for Senate again in recent months, aware that he was their best chance of holding onto the seat.
After the announcement, Democrats said they had hopes of expanding the map to Florida or Texas, states that voted for Donald Trump in 2020 and where Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Sen. Rick Scott are up for reelection in 2024.
“Democrats have multiple pathways to protect and strengthen our Senate majority and are in a strong position to achieve this goal,” said David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Democratic senators’ campaign arm, in a statement.
“In addition to defending our battle-tested incumbents, we’ve already expanded the battleground map to Texas and Florida, where formidable Democratic candidates are out-raising unpopular Republican incumbents and the DSCC is making investments to lay the groundwork for our campaigns’ victories.”
Manchin, whose state strongly backed Trump in 2020, repeatedly has distanced himself from President Biden ahead of next year’s election..