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Joe Manchin Again Has Us Wondering Will He or Won't He?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

There's no helping that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) finding himself in the news. The man is one of the few moderate or even conservative Democrats left in federal office, and while he is considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats for 2024--a year which looks pretty bad for his party when it comes to the Senate--he still has that incumbency advantage. Being the conservative Democrat that he is, though, representing and running in a state that has been the most critical of President Joe Biden, Manchin has often found himself at odds with the current administration. Such factors invite questions as to if Manchin will even run for reelection, and, if he does, will he remain a Democrat? Will he instead for president in 2024? And, if so, as a member of which party?

Those questions were only further ignited during the most recent Sunday shows he appeared on, as he certainly made the rounds on April 2.

Manchin, to his credit, raised a point many Republicans have when it comes to a grand jury indicting former and potentially future President Donald Trump on charges brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. "No one should be targeted by the law, especially through the political process," he said while speaking to Dana Bash on CNN's "State of the Union."

Such comments led to a bit of a back-and-forth between Bash and Manchin, as she pushed him on whether or not he thinks Trump is "a political target." Manchin made clear his point was that "you have to remove all doubt. You have to remove all doubt. You have to make sure -- cross every T, dot every I, as they say." He did also emphasize that "no matter what your status is, in the United States of America, you're not above the law, and on the other hand, no person should be targeted by the law either." He added to Bash "let's make sure that's cleared up, and let's see where it goes."

As Madeline and I have covered, polling has shown that a majority of Americans believe that the indictment is "politically motivated."

Manchin didn't merely acknowledge what a majority of the American people have about the indictment, but he also raised chatter about further political ambitions. 

Bash also asked him about his intentions for 2024, during which Manchin not only payed coy about whether he would support Biden for reelection--a move the president has not made official yet--but if he himself would run. Manchin is waiting until the end of the year to decide if he himself is running for reelection.

When it comes to his coy response about Biden, Bash aptly pointed out how Manchin's state of West Virginia voted for Trump by nearly 40 points in 2020, and if that's why Manchin wasn't clear in his support. 

"Dana, the only thing I have said, only in America does the next election start the day after the last election," Manchin lamented. "Now, I'm going to basically wait until the end of this year and just do my job. There's so much to be done," he said, before listing areas where people are having to pay more. Of course, this is the doing of the Democratic president whom Manchin may or may not support for reelection, who he may even run against. 

When asked if he would run as part of the No Labels group, Manchin sounded as tired as he claimed to be, lamenting he was "worn out" and that the "people are tired, sick and tired, of the fighting and division that we have and dividing the country." He also quoted Abraham Lincoln, and lamented the idea of "a divided country" and emphasized the need "to come together." As he continued to play coy, offering responses when it comes to discussing "a movement," Bash continued to push Manchin, who emphasized the need for people coming together and avoiding "the extremes," so as to come "back to the sensible and reasonable, responsible middle." Whether running or not, Manchin wants to "be part of trying to get a dialogue."

Manchin was also asked many of these same questions by Chuck Todd while on NBC's "Meet the Press.

It was Manchin's answer on the indictment that led Todd to point out "Senator, you sound like a presidential candidate." During a discussion the mentioned various Republican members criticizing the indictment and what they had to say, Manchin emphasized "I say, we must come together" and how the "American people want us to do our job," again bringing up problems of raising prices. Going for a more hopeful angle, Manchin also expressed the ideal for America to be seen as a country that can come together in the face of "geopolitical unrest around the world." The senator went on to list issues that people want their office holders to work on. 

"I want to show them that as Americans, we can work together. We can meet the challenges. We can basically lead the free world and come to the aid of our allies that have the same thirst that we have for the freedoms with democracy. And that's what I keep working on, and I keep saying--I talk to people around the country. They can't take it anymore. They're just tired. They're wore out," Manchin told Todd, prompting such a point from the host about Manchin's potential political ambitions.

Todd also mentioned the No Labels group, in reference to how Manchin did not rule it out when speaking to The Washington Post. As that report mentioned:

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who has not declared whether he will run for reelection next year, and former Maryland governor Larry Hogan (R) are also supporters of the effort, and both said they have not ruled out participating in a No Labels presidential ticket, if it happens.

“If enough Americans believe there is an option and the option is a threat to the extreme left and extreme right, it will be the greatest contribution to democracy, I believe,” Manchin said in an interview. When asked whether he would participate in a No Labels ticket, he said, “I don’t rule myself in and I don’t rule myself out.”

The other candidate mentioned, former Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD), who is considered something of a RINO, has already ruled out running for president as a Republican. 

Going back to Manchin's response on "Meet the Press," Todd highlighted how "what you just sounded like there, that sounded like what a presidential candidate says when they're trying to bring the country together," asking "how serious are you about this?"

What Manchin had to say in response, once again, sounded like something a candidate would say, potentially even someone seeking higher office. Speaking as how he's always been "a centrist in the middle," he expanded upon that even further by mentioning "I tell people I'm fiscally responsible and socially compassionate, which I think most Americans" are and again warning that people have "been driven to the corners to pick a side."

When it came to providing a potential answer to Todd's question, with Manchin mentioning "when you're asking me what I'm going to do and what my political ambitions would be," he still left Todd and viewers wanting more, as he responded that "it's to make the country work together and be a United States and not the divided states." The senator went on to again emphasize his desire to work in the middle, as well as pinpoint issues with having to pick a side. 

"Neither of them are doing the job the way we should do it, but one's not as bad as the other, so you pick a side. I think we can do better than that, and if we can change that dialogue and have a movement, Chuck, then we've done our job," he offered. 

Manchin was at least a little more clear when it comes to the timeline of announcing whether or not he will run for president, which is that it won't be before the end of the year. He seemed to suggest that he might not run with any such label when asked. 

"Well, you know, the party identification is not going to change me. Democrat, Republican. I mean, having a D and R should not change you as a person. I'm going to still fight for the things I do," he said. "Can't I be a moderate centrist with whatever identification, or no identification? I would think. I'm not going to be changing as a person. I've been doing this for a long time. I'm going to continue to fight for the people of West Virginia and the people of my great country. I’m proud to be an American," he said, leaving open the possibility he'll run as an Independent then, or part of that No Labels group. 

While Manchin does have the benefit of running as an incumbent, should he run for reelection in the Senate, he is seen as one of the most incumbent Democratic senators up for reelection, along with Sen. Jon Tester of Montana. If Manchin decides not to run for reelection, though, Democrats can pretty much kiss the seat goodbye. 


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