Yesterday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) told CBS' Face the Nation that he won't decide whether he will run for reelection until Dec. 2023. In most states, that would be an outrageous and mean thing to do to his party. If he is not going to run for reelection there will not be enough time left for other candidates to put together campaigns. In West Virginia, it doesn't matter, because he is the only Democrat in the state who could win the Senate seat. So if he doesn't run, it doesn't matter that no other Democrat has time to put together a campaign. It's completely pointless.
Gov. Jim Justice (R-WV) is term-limited and interested in a Senate run. This means the governor's race in 2024 will not have an incumbent running. Manchin could possibly run for that office, although he said earlier this month that he wouldn't run for governor. Then he walked that back. So maybe he will run for governor. Only he knows what he is planning to do. Or maybe even he doesn't know yet.
There are three incumbent Democratic senators up in very red states up in 2024: Manchin, and Sens. Jon Tester (MT) and Sherrod Brown (OH). Tester and Brown are both personally popular and running. If both of them win and no other seats flip, the Democrats will have 50 seats even if they lose West Virginia. There's not a lot of margin for error there. All the Democrats who have criticized Manchin for 2 years are now begging forgiveness and pleading with him to run. The Senator may just try to leverage their desperation in exchange for some nice, juicy pork. But if he does, it won't work. That ship has sailed. Back when the Democrats had the trifecta, they would have given him all the pork in Iowa for his vote on Biden's Build Back Better Bill (BBBBB). Now House Republicans are not going to help Manchin get reelected. So what is his game here?
If Manchin announces on, say, Dec. 20 that he's not running, then he'll definitely be on the Democrats' naughty list. That includes, we would imagine, the naughty list of the elderly white-haired guy who believes in giving handouts to everyone without worrying about paying for them. No, not Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); the guy who lives in a place even colder than Vermont. Unfortunately, Santa's main punishment for bad boys and girls is to deliver them a Christmas lump of coal. But for Manchin, that's exactly what he wants in his stocking. So, there's nothing that Santa and the Democrats can do but hope for the best. (V)