Earlier this week, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) announced the news that he would not be running for a second term in 2024. Instead, he'll be retiring from politics, with a video message in part noting that "frankly, it's time for a new generation of leaders." He's got a point, though Romney will remain in office until his term expires in 2025, and he's wasted no time in irking his fellow Republicans. With Romney's announcement also came renewed wondering about what whether Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), whose term also expires in 2025, will be doing next.
Romney Says He Won't Run for Re-Election— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) September 13, 2023
Manchin has been trending over social media in recent days, in part due to a piece from The Washington Post, "Manchin weighs running for Senate or president as an independent," which raises even more speculation he'll switch parties. Curiously, the piece makes no mention of Romney, though.
It wouldn't be a shock if Manchin were to switch, given the at times acrimonious relationship between him as someone who is considered something of a moderate or even conservative Democrat and the Biden administration. There had been increased chatter last month when he spoke to West Virginia radio host Hoppy Kercheval about how he's "thinking seriously" about becoming an Independent before 2024. And now it doesn't look like that chatter is dying down.
The wondering what Manchin, who is 76-year-old, will do when it comes to running for reelection, running for president, or retiring, has been going on for months. He said in April while on "Meet the Press" that he wouldn't make a decision "until the end of the year." But then in June he told NBC News "it'll be next year."
The opening of this piece from The Washington Post doesn't give any of those who are interested much hope that Manchin is that much closer to deciding. "Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) is having trouble making a decision about his political future," the one sentence opening paragraph reads.
If Manchin does stay in politics, though, it's looking increasingly likely that it won't be as a Democrat:
Manchin and his family said in the meetings that the senator was considering three options: running for reelection in West Virginia as an independent, running for president as a No Labels candidate or retiring from politics. Manchin has not decided what path to pursue, but it seemed clear to those he met with that he is likely to leave the Democratic Party if he chooses to stay in politics.
Manchin declined to comment through a spokesperson.
In some of the meetings, Democratic donors strongly urged Manchin to run for reelection in West Virginia, and Manchin said he believed he could win the race but only if he ran as an independent. Manchin has previously said he has considered leaving the Democratic Party, but people familiar with the meetings said Manchin was more adamant than he has been in public about his need to run as an independent to win.
Another VIP piece from May discussed at length the issues between the senator and the Biden administration. It may be too late, though. Many have been vocal sharing as much. This is relevant when it comes to being able to remain in politics even if he does run again, given that he could be unseated by a Republican. A likely 2024 Senate matchup could be between Manchin and Jim Justice, the state's popular sitting Republican governor. Polls show Justice ahead, though it looks like it would be a closer race between Manchin and another contender, Republican Rep. Alex Mooney.
A particularly curious point about the Senate is whether or not Democrats want him to run. They ought to. As vulnerable as he may be given how bright red West Virginia is, he still has the advantage of the incumbency. Forecasters currently regard the race as a Toss-Up or slightly favoring Republicans.
As The Washington Post noted:
Democrats are optimistic Manchin will run for reelection in West Virginia, and even if he chooses to run as an independent, most expect the party will back his campaign.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee declined to comment. A national Democratic aide working on Senate races, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said the “party hopes he runs.”
It could also be too late for Manchin's current opposition the so-called Inflation Reducation Act (IRA) to come to fruition. He helped pass the bill, after all, by striking a deal with Senate Majority Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in July of last year, only to ultimately ask Schumer to take out the permitting reforms he had asked for from last year's continuing resolution (CR) when it was clear he didn't have the votes.
I'm skeptical that Joe Manchin will leave the Democratic Party. I'm even more skeptical that if he did it would help his reelection prospects at all. It's way too late for that. https://t.co/MeODXQ5RJD— Varad Mehta (@varadmehta) September 14, 2023
When it comes to running for president as part of the No Labels ticket, Manchin's daughter is encouraging him to do so. Former President Bill Clinton, like so many other Democrats, reportedly "made an aggressive pitch that Manchin should absolutely not run for president, warning that his candidacy would only serve to bolster former president Donald Trump, the current front-runner for the Republican nomination."
For all of the fears expressed by Democrats about how a No Labels Party would help Trump, a Monmouth University poll found not only that Americans don't have much of an appetite for such a ticket, but that it would actually affect Trump and Biden "about equally."
NATIONAL POLL: Figuring in the potential vote for a third-party ticket affects support for both Joe Biden and Donald Trump about equally. They each lose 1-12 points with a generic alternative and 6-7 points with a named ticket in the mix.https://t.co/9It7kp9LT7 pic.twitter.com/tk1S5aeYQL— MonmouthPoll (@MonmouthPoll) July 20, 2023
If Manchin were to switch parties and run for reelection, he might not be the only vulnerable Democratic turned Independent to do so. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona switched parties last December. She too is up for reelection but has not yet indicated her plans.
Even though The Washington Post makes no mention of Romney, making the timing of Romney's announcement and the release of this report all the more coincidental, there's nevertheless a connection. While Manchin may switch parties, Romney maintains he's still a Republican. He admits it's "a small wing of the party," but still has the nerve to say "I call it the wise wing of the Republican Party" and that "I don't believe we're going away."
Romney: "Trump is the leader of the greatest portion of the Republican Party. It's a populist, demagogue portion of the party. I represent a small wing of the party. I call it the wise wing of the Republican Party. I don't believe we're going away." pic.twitter.com/p7qUADi9qU— Greg Price (@greg_price11) September 13, 2023
That's ruffled some fellow Republicans' feathers not just because of how Romney has been considered a RINO or member of the establishment, but also what he just recently said about the impeachment inquiry that was opened into Biden just earlier this week. "I haven't heard any allegation that would rise to the level of a high crime and misdemeanor," Romney claimed, despite there being plenty of evidence, as House Republicans have addressed repeatedly.
Romney, who voted to remove Donald Trump from office over a phone call where he asked Zelenskyy a question about Biden's corruption, says on the Biden impeachment inquiry "I haven't heard any allegation that would rise to the level of a high crime and misdemeanor." pic.twitter.com/31a0FK03Gr— Greg Price (@greg_price11) September 13, 2023
Not only is it telling that Romney won't be sticking by his fellow Republicans, but because he voted against former and potentially future President Donald Trump in not just the second impeachment--which seven Republican senators in total did--he also voted against him in a count in the first impeachment. With that move from 2020, Romney became the first senator to vote to convict a president of his own party.
Romney has also stood up for Biden in other ways, including by voting to confirm now Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court. By nominating a justice based on her race and sex, with Jackson being a black woman, Biden was able to fulfill one of his campaign promises and see it to fruition thanks to Romney.