Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

Manchin For President? Yeah, Right

Yesterday, The Hill had a piece headlined "Manchin stokes Dem fears he'll run as third-party candidate." The basic idea is that, facing a tough challenger (likely Gov. Jim Justice, R) if he tries to continue his Senate career, and a tough challenger (likely AG Patrick Morrisey, R) if he tries to regain the governorship of West Virginia, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) might try for a promotion and run president as a third-party alternative to Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

As readers will recall, there are a number of groups trying right now to put together a viable, centrist third party. And one of those is No Labels, which is making some amount of progress getting on the ballot in all 50 states. So, Manchin would theoretically run as that party's candidate. Speaking to reporters, the Senator helpfully pointed out that "I've been part of No Labels since December of 2010. It's the only game in town that wants to bring people together and get Democrats and Republicans working together."

We think The Hill, and the handful of other outlets that are reporting on a potential Manchin presidential campaign, should maybe be a wee bit less credulous, as this plan makes no sense whatsoever. It is true that there are currently more "independents" in the U.S. than there are registered Democrats or registered Republicans (it's about 32% to 28% to 25% for the three categories). However, most "independents" aren't actually independent, and certainly aren't going to vote for someone just because that person says they're not a Democrat anymore.

Meanwhile, the major sources of dissatisfaction with Joe Biden, among those folks who are likely to vote for him, are that he's too moderate/milquetoast, and that he's too old. Well, Manchin is even more aggressively moderate than Biden, and he's only 5 years younger. He is not a meaningful "alternative" to the President in the sense that word is generally used in politics.

Oh, and let's not forget that Manchin has quite a bit of baggage. He may not have broken the law, but the fortune he's derived from coal, a fortune that was often augmented thanks to his votes as a politician, has a distinct odor to it, and that odor ain't roses. The man also lives on a yacht when he's in Washington, and he's known for his lavish spending on food and other pleasures. If the Senator is placed under a presidential microscope, he's in for some unpleasant times.

What's clearly going on here is that Manchin is biding his time, and deciding which is more likely to be successful—a reelection bid, or a return-to-the-governorship bid (we think the former is clearly the smarter choice). And as he bides his time, it behooves the Senator to perform "I'm not really a Democrat" kabuki for voters in his ruby-red state as often, and as loudly, as is possible. Idle chit-chat about running for president as a third-party, centrist candidate serves that purpose very nicely.

And this isn't just our imagination. As Slate's Jim Newell points out, Manchin has been flailing about lately, trying to remake himself as King of the DINOs. That includes vocal criticism of Biden that is so sharp it might make Sean Hannity blush. And it includes opposition to legislation and to policies that Manchin was very openly for, until he was against. It's gotten to the point that many of Manchin's Democratic colleagues, even if they understand what he's doing, are sick of it, and want him to shut his yap.

So, yeah, don't be rushing out and buying those "Manchin for President" bumper stickers, t-shirts, and coal scuttles, because it's not happening. The Senator is many things, but stupid is not among them. (Z)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates