WASHINGTON, Nov 9 (Reuters) – Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, a maverick who has often clashed with the party’s leadership over the past two years, said on Thursday he would not run again, damaging to the Democrats’ chances of defending their slim majority in the Senate. in the 2024 election.
“I will not run for re-election to the United States Senate, but what I will do is travel the country and speak out to see if there is interest in creating a movement to mobilize the community and bring Americans together,” he added. » Manchin said in a statement.
The 76-year-old lawmaker’s decision will make it very difficult for Democrats to defend his West Virginia seat. Republicans hold the governorship and the rest of the congressional delegation in a state that Republican Donald Trump won by a wide margin of 69% to 30% over Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
“We like our chances in West Virginia,” Sen. Steve Daines, Republican senatorial campaign manager, said in a statement.
Manchin earlier this year flirted publicly with his departure from the Democratic Party, and appeared in July at an event with the group “No Labels”, where he discussed the possibility of having a third party candidate to run for president in 2024.
Polls show dissatisfaction with the current leading contenders for the White House, incumbent President Biden and Republican front-runner Trump. A Reuters/Ipsos poll in August found that 8% of respondents said they would vote for Manchin if he ran for president as an independent against Biden and Trump.
“We will make a decision by early 2024 on whether and who we will present a candidate for president of Unity,” No Labels said in a statement.
Manchin’s departure will also raise the stakes for Democrats in several other Senate races, including in Republican-leaning Montana and Ohio and highly competitive Pennsylvania and Arizona, as they defend a 51-point majority -49.
Democrats currently hold more seats than Republicans. Three Democratic-held seats are in states Trump won in the 2020 election, while no Republican seats up for election are in states where voters chose Biden.
David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, said the party was confident in its chances of strengthening its majority.
Matt Bennett, co-founder of Third Way, a centrist Democratic consulting firm, said he believes Manchin will speak to people across the country about why the country needs moderation.
“I think he rightly feels that he has a unique voice and a message that resonates and so I hope he puts that behind the president,” Bennett said.
SEAT OF THE EYES OF JUSTICE
West Virginia Republican Gov. Jim Justice has already launched a campaign for his party’s Senate nomination. Justice was a Democrat when he was first elected governor in 2016, but a year after taking office, he switched parties and subsequently re-elected, winning 65% of the vote in 2020. Trump supported Justice .
Manchin, who took office in 2010, played a key role in every major bill during President Biden’s term, as a moderate representing an increasingly conservative state. His support was key to the passage of Biden’s sweeping $1 trillion infrastructure law, one of the president’s major domestic accomplishments.
With Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who became an independent rather than a Democrat in December, Manchin secured major concessions and a rollback of his party’s legislative goals, earning applause from conservatives and condemnation from many fellow Democrats.
The two men united to protect the Senate’s filibuster rule, which requires 60 of the chamber’s 100 members to agree on most legislation, in the face of intense opposition from their own party.
Manchin’s defense of the filibuster helped block Democrats’ hopes of passing bills to protect abortion rights after the Supreme Court last year overturned Roe v. Wade 1973 which established the law on a national scale.
“What I have seen during my time in Washington is that every party in power will always want to exercise absolute power, absolutely,” Manchin wrote in an opinion column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail, a newspaper of West Virginia, in 2021.
The Senate has “evolved over time to make absolute power difficult while providing solutions to the problems facing our country and I believe that is the best quality of the Senate,” he added.
Republican senators praised Manchin’s commitment to bipartisanship.
“I will miss this American patriot in the Senate. But our friendship and our commitment to American values will not end,” wrote Republican Senator Mitt Romney, who is also not seeking re-election, in a message on X.
Manchin won his last election with just 49.6% of the vote, 0.3 percentage points ahead of his Republican rival, in 2018, a year in which opposition to Trump’s presidency allowed Democrats to make major gains in Congress.
Manchin insisted his only motivation was the coal-producing state of West Virginia and his concern for fiscal responsibility.
“I know our country is not as divided as Washington wants us to believe,” he said in a statement Thursday. “We share common values of family, freedom, democracy, dignity and the belief that together we can overcome any challenge. We must take America back and not let this hatred that divides us further separate us.”
Reporting by Moira Warburton, Jasper Ward, Makini Brice and Richard Cowan; additional reporting by Jason Lange and David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone, Alistair Bell and Daniel Wallis
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