Sen. Joe Manchin’s political career is in trouble — so much so, there is legitimate doubt as to whether he will seek reelection in 2024. He’s been mum on his political future, with some wondering whether he might launch a presidential bid. That seems extremely unlikely, but it certainly feels like he’s been trying to salvage his political career in recent months, as he’s been adopting a (slightly) more aggressive stance against President Biden.
For example, Manchin refused to support Biden nominees Gigi Sohn for the Federal Communications Commission, Daniel Werfel for IRS Commissioner, and Laura Daniel-Davis for assistant secretary of the Department of Interior. While Werfel’s confirmation was ultimately smooth and Sohn’s nomination faced skepticism from the start, Manchin’s opposition effectively halted Daniel-Davis’s nomination before it could make it out of committee. Manchin also hasn’t endorsed Joe Biden for president
However, there have been instances where the West Virginia senator has proven to be a useful ally for the Democrats. Despite his opposition to the Build Back Better initiative, in September, Manchin entered into a deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to support the so-called Inflation Reduction Act. Without Manchin’s backing, the bill would not have passed the Senate or become law, providing a much-needed legislative victory for President Biden — even though it did nothing to address inflation. Furthermore, despite being labeled as a “moderate” or “independent” voice, Manchin has voted with Joe Biden on approximately 88% of legislation and has supported the confirmation of all of Biden’s judicial nominees, including controversial figures like Ketanji Brown Jackson, despite her views on critical race theory and her support for child sex offenders.
While Manchin has managed to get elected and reelected as a Democrat in a red state, he’s experienced diminishing margins of victory in each of his Senate contests since 2012. He won comfortably in 2012 by 24 points, but his reelection in 2018 was only narrowly won against Republican candidate Patrick Morrisey. Manchin secured only 49.7% of the vote, while Morrisey received 46.2%. Regardless of which Republican ultimately challenges Manchin in 2024, it can be confidently stated that West Virginia, a state where Trump garnered 68.6% of the vote in 2020, will ultimately remove Manchin from office. A new poll from East Carolina University’s Center for Survey Research shows that Manchin is trailing his potential GOP challenger, Gov. Jim Justice, by 22 points, and has a net negative approval rating of -26 points.
“Although it is still early, Jim Justice is the clear favorite to win in West Virginia’s 2024 U.S. Senate election. He is a popular Republican governor challenging an unpopular Democratic incumbent in a heavily Republican state,” explains Dr. Peter Francia, the director of the ECU Center for Survey Research.
Manchin seems to be in such a deep hole that no amount of effort to present himself as an independent voice prior to a reelection campaign would alter the dynamics of the race. So, it is reasonable to question whether Manchin, a former governor with a lengthy tenure in the U.S. Senate, would willingly risk tarnishing his political legacy by getting crushed in a race against Justice. His stands against the Biden agenda truly saved our nation from some pretty terrible Biden policies, but he hasn’t gone against Biden enough to earn the good graces of Republican voters, and he’s angered enough Democrats that he’s made himself unviable in 2024.
Manchin will be 77 years old on Election Day 2024, so it is a good time for him to retire. His seat will likely go red whether he’s the Democrat candidate or not, so perhaps it’s just time for him to close the book on his Senate career.