Flanked by two bald eagle statues and several American flags, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced Thursday that he will not seek reelection to the U.S. Senate.
Instead, he said in the pre-recorded video, he will be touring the country in an effort to “unite the middle.”
“I believe in my heart of hearts that I’ve accomplished what I’ve set out to do in West Virginia,” Manchin said. “… What I will be doing is traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together.”
Manchin, who was first elected to the Senate in 2010 after serving six years as West Virginia’s governor, has for months now — as he does often before election cycles – teased what his political future will look like.
Earlier this year, he appeared in several events hosted by No Labels, a political group interested in forming an independent ticket for the 2024 presidential election. This sparked rumors that the independent-minded Democrat, who has become one of the most powerful figures in a split Senate, would be exploring a possible run for president.
When asked Thursday if Manchin’s plans to travel the country were related to a potential presidential run, a spokesperson for his office said they “don’t have anything else to add” to the released statement.
A spokesperson for No Labels said in an emailed statement on Thursday that the Senate will be losing “a great leader” with Manchin’s departure. They wanted to “commend” Manchin for “stepping up” to start a national conversation about how to solve some of the nation’s largest issues outside of the traditional party system.
“Regarding our No Labels Unity presidential ticket, we are gathering input from our members across the country to understand the kind of leaders they would like to see in the White House,” the statement reads. “As we have said from the beginning, we will make a decision by early 2024 about whether we will nominate a Unity presidential ticket and who will be on it.”
Manchin has been vocal about his dislike of the two-party political system. In Thursday’s video, he emphasized the importance of putting “country before party” and how his efforts to do so while serving in the Senate have “landed [him] in hot water, but the fight to unite is worth it.”
In October, Manchin described himself to the Associated Press as being “fiscally responsible and socially compassionate.”
“I know our country isn’t as divided as Washington wants us to believe. We share common values of family, freedom, democracy, dignity and a belief that together we can overcome any challenge,” Manchin said in Thursday’s news release. “We need to take back America and not let this divisive hatred further pull us apart.”
Since 2022, when Democrats took control of the Senate on a 51-49 margin, Manchin as a centrist has been in the national spotlight, often serving as a swing vote on crucial yet partisan issues. His “no” vote on extending the child tax credit killed the bill, affecting thousands of West Virginians in a state with increasing child poverty rates following the pandemic.
Del. Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, who serves as chair of the West Virginia Democratic Party, called Manchin a “larger than life figure in the United States Senate” and thanked him for his service.
Manchin’s departure from the 2024 Senate race leaves Zachary Shrewsbury, a veteran and community organizer from Southern West Virginia, as the only Democrat running for the office.
Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., and Gov. Jim Justice are currently vying to win the Republican primary for the seat, with $2.3 million and $1.5 million raised respectively for their campaigns so far, according to the Federal Elections Commission. Manchin is leaving the race with nearly $11.3 million raised for his campaign.
“In the coming months, we will engage in a robust process to identify and support a candidate [for U.S. Senate] who truly represents the values of West Virginia,” Pushkin wrote.
Criticizing Justice, Pushkin continued: “The West Virginia Democratic Party will work tirelessly to support and elect a senator who shows up for work, pays his debts and brings more to the U.S. Senate than a cute dog.”
Justice announced his Senate race in April 2023, and has since been vocally critical of Manchin’s work in Washington, D.C.
“Senator Joe Manchin and I have not always agreed on policy and politics, but we’re both lifelong West Virginians who love this state beyond belief, and I respect and thank him for his many years of public service,” Justice said in a news release.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who has served side by side with Manchin on numerous committees since her election to the Senate in 2014, took to social media to thank Manchin for his service to their “beloved West Virginia.”
“I’ve enjoyed serving alongside you — our senior senator. And, as you said, we still have much work ahead of us,” Capito said. “Thank you for your friendship, Joe. I look forward to that continuing.”
Manchin said his decision to leave the Senate came after “months of deliberation and long conversations” with his family.
“To the West Virginians who have put their trust in me and fought side by side to make our state better — it has been an honor of my life to serve you. Thank you,” Manchin said.
Source: Pennsylvania Capitral Star