As he openly flirts with a third-party run for president in 2024, Sen. Joe Manchin has plenty of people in his party terrified that the moderate from West Virginia will unintentionally hand the White House over to former President Donald Trump.
But Manchin dismisses such warnings, rejecting claims from fellow Democrats that a third party run would hurt President Biden’s chances of re-election in a likely rematch next year with Trump, who remains the commanding front-runner for the GOP nomination.
‘I would never be a spoiler for anybody, and I don’t agree with…the analysis that they’ve come up with,’ Manchin told Fox News’ host Brett Baier on ‘Special Report’ last week.
Manchin has repeatedly emphasized that ‘I believe that Donald Trump being elected again would destroy democracy as we know it.’
And he worries that the 81-year-old Biden, saddled with deeply underwater approval ratings, isn’t up to the task of defeating Trump.
Manchin made national headlines earlier this month by announcing that he wouldn’t seek re-election next year in the Senate, striking a major blow to the Democrats’ hopes of holding their razor-thin majority in the chamber in 2024.
He also teased a potential third-party presidential campaign and in the ensuing days told NBC News that he’d ‘absolutely’ consider a White House run and CBS News that there’s ‘plenty of time’ to make a decision.
Manchin argues that national politics has increasingly become too polarized, leaving millions of voters in the middle of the ideological spectrum without much of a voice in the nation’s capital.
‘I want to mobilize what we’ll call the radical, moderate, centrist middle person to get involved because neither side can win without them,’ he emphasized in his Fox News interview.
Much of the speculation surrounding Manchin focuses on No Labels, the influential centrist group that’s seriously mulling sporting a bipartisan, third-party presidential ticket, if Biden and Trump are the major party nominees in the 2024 election.
Manchin, a former No Labels chair, grabbed plenty of national attention earlier this year as he served as honorary co-host of the group’s ‘Common Sense’ town hall in New Hampshire, where they unveiled their policy proposals.
Following Manchin’s announcement earlier this month, No Labels said that ‘we commend Senator Manchin for stepping up to lead a long overdue national conversation about solving America’s biggest challenges, including inflation, an insecure border, out-of-control debt and growing threats from abroad.’
‘Regarding our No Labels Unity presidential ticket, we are gathering input from our members across the country to understand the kind of leaders they would like to see in the White House. As we have said from the beginning, we will make a decision by early 2024 about whether we will nominate a Unity presidential ticket and who will be on it,’ the group added.
Polling suggests that independent presidential candidates Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Cornell West pull support from both Biden and Trump in a hypothetical four-way 2024 general election showdown.
Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and high-profile vaccine critic who is a scion of arguably the nation’s most famous family political dynasty, launched a Democrat primary challenge against Biden in April.
But Kennedy announced at a campaign event in Philadelphia last month that he would seek the White House as an independent candidate.
West, an outspoken progressive university scholar, was running on the Green Party ticket, but last month announced he would seek the presidency as an independent candidate.
But both Kennedy and West now face uphill climbs to obtain ballot access in states across the country.
Earlier this month, 2016 Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein announced that she will make another White House run next year. Plenty of Democrats still blame Stein’s 2016 campaign for putting Trump in the White House. Her vote totals seven years ago in the key battlegrounds of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin topped Trump’s margins over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in each state.
Now comes Manchin’s third-party flirtation.
‘Everything going into the 2024 race that would help Donald Trump win should be avoided if you are somebody who cares about the future of democracy and the future of this country,’ longtime Democratic strategist and Democratic National Committee member Maria Cardona told Fox News.
Matt Bennett, a co-founder of the moderate Democratic group the Third Way, noted that plenty of middle of the road voters, ‘if they’re confronted with a forced choice between Biden and Trump, they will vote for Biden if they must because they can’t abide Trump.’
But Bennett, a veteran of multiple Democratic presidential campaigns and who also served in then-President Bill Clinton’s White House, argued ‘if they’re given the option of a Larry Hogan type Republican, they might take it. Not a lot of them take it, but enough to make a difference. And this is what we’re most worried about.’
Hogan, a former popular two-term moderate GOP governor of Maryland, is mulling a third-party presidential bid with No Labels.
Bennett, a vocal critic of No Labels, argued that Manchin ‘is not going to be their candidate,’ as he pointed to a potential national ticket by the centrist group.
‘They made clear they’re going to put a Republican at the top of their ticket. They put out a chart three weeks ago that if they put a Democrat at the top of their ticket, Trump wins. It’s pretty hard to walk that back,’ he said.
Bennett is referring to a meeting No Labels had with its donors, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal and confirmed by Fox News.
But No Labels reiterates that it’s made no decisions yet when it comes to a potential national ticket and which candidates may be involved.
As for Manchin, he says he’ll do ‘whatever it takes’ to help the country out of its current ‘horrible situation.’
Veteran communicator and strategist Jonathan Kott, who served as a senior adviser to the senator, told Fox News ‘Joe Manchin is going to travel the country and speak to the moderate majority of the country that is tired of political fighting and listening to the extremes of each party.’
And Manchin confidant and SEMAFOR editor at large Steve Clemons said the senator feels ‘there have to be better options for the country than two bad choices. What’s democracy supposed to be about — two stacked decks with bad hands, or should we be pressuring to make sure there are alternatives? The cynicism of Washington that only it can sort out who the two choices are is intense and just the wrong track. Manchin will be out talking to Americans to see if there is enough passion to challenge Washington with better, more problem-solving solutions that don’t leave 60-70% of frustrated Americans on the sidelines.’
Manchin acknowledged this week that it would be aa long-shot for any third-party candidate, including himself, to win the White House.
‘I know that a third-party candidate, myself or anyone else who wants to jump into that fray, is really a long shot,’ Manchin said on West Virginia’s ‘Watchdog Radio’ show. ‘But if you can get a movement to where you can move the two established parties, the Democrat and Republican, back to where their roots are, where they’ve come from and what they’ve been able to produce over all these years, they can get back to some normality.’