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Hmmm: Joe Manchin Considering Senate Exit to Run for Governor?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Joe Manchin, the most moderate Democrat in the US Senate, may be plotting his exit strategy from Chuck Schumer's caucus.  With his party drifting farther leftward by the day, and with gridlock gripping the legislative process, the West Virginian is said to be plotting his exit strategy from Congress' upper chamber.  He is less than one year removed from pretty narrowly securing another six-year term in 2018, but Manchin is reportedly looking into moving back home and seeking to regain his former job of governor.  If true, depending on the timing, that could be very welcome news to Sen. Mitch McConnell and the Senate GOP:


Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is eyeing a possible exit from the Senate, and his decision could be a significant factor in which party controls the majority in 2021. In moments of frustration, the centrist senator has gone so far as to tell colleagues he may leave the upper chamber before the end of this Congress, or after the 2020 elections. Manchin says he’s deeply irritated with the lack of bipartisan cooperation on Capitol Hill, where passing bills has largely become an afterthought in the 116th Congress. Manchin noted supporters in West Virginia are pressing him to run for governor next year, and he’s considering it. “I have people back home that want me to come back and run for governor. We’re looking at all the different plays. I want to make sure whatever time I have left in public service is productive,” he told The Hill. Asked if he’s happy with how productive he is in the Senate, Manchin replied, “Not at all.” “I haven’t been happy since I’ve been here. I’ve always thought there was more we can do. It’s the greatest body in the world, so much good could be done,” he said of the legislative stalemate.

More details from The Hill's story:

Manchin’s patience reached a breaking point shortly before the Memorial Day recess, when the Senate finally finished debating a disaster relief bill that many lawmakers thought should have passed weeks earlier. A Democratic senator who requested anonymity recalled Manchin getting thoroughly fed up and threatening to retire before the end of the 116th Congress. “He said, ‘I’m out of here.’ He was all pissed off and said, ‘I’m going to be out of here,’ ” the lawmaker said...A third Senate colleague who has spoken to Manchin about his future in the Senate said, “All he says is, ‘I’ll be here until 2020.’ ”


The issue of how and when Manchin would theoretically be replaced depends on the timing of his resignation from the Senate. There are lots of moving pieces to that question, but Manchin's departure would very likely result in a new Republican Senator sooner or later. It seems probable that Manchin would at least hold on through this next electoral cycle, even if he's actively running for governor. Democrats already need to net at least three Senate seats to regain the majority, but the number could be four, considering Doug Jones' very precarious situation in Alabama. If President Trump wins re-election, add another seat to the tally Chuck Schumer would need to flip control, as a 50-50 tie would break in the GOP's favor.  McConnell is framing his majority as a critical backstop against leftist governance.

The current governor of West Virginia was a Democrat until two summers ago, when he saw the political direction of his state -- and Trump's strong popularity there -- and chose to switch parties.  The incumbent's approval ratings aren't bad, but he could be vulnerable to both a Republican primary challenge and a run for his money from a well-liked Democratic challenger like Manchin.  I'll leave you with comments from a few of Manchin's fellow red state Democratic (now former) colleagues:


The Kavanaugh effect was real, and it may have saved Senate Republicans' bacon in a very challenging cycle.  Manchin voted for confirmation; Donnelly and McCaskill lined up with Schumer.  Guess who's still in the Senate?  For now.


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