Sen. Manchin says he 'absolutely' can picture himself as the president amid ongoing tour to gauge voter support for independent bid

 January 30, 2024

Whether his campaign will ever admit it or not, President Joe Biden is struggling and there are real doubts among many Americans that he is capable of defeating his likely Republican opponent, former President Donald Trump, to win another four-year term in the White House.

Coinciding with that perceived weakness for Biden are recent moves suggestive of an imminent presidential run by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who said in a recent interview that he "absolutely" can picture himself serving as the nation's president, Mediaite reported.

Manchin, the moderate Democratic senator from deep-red West Virginia, who has repeatedly upended the progressive agenda of the Biden administration and his fellow congressional Democrats, has been teasing a possible independent presidential campaign since before he announced late last year that he would not run for another six-year term in the U.S. Senate.

Manchin can "absolutely" see himself as a centrist president

CNN reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere recently joined outgoing Sen. Manchin for stops along a nationwide tour he has embarked on and shared the confident senator's belief that he "absolutely" could see himself as the president.

Manchin, who bills himself as a "fiscally responsible and socially compassionate" centrist, appears to be positioning himself to potentially jump into the 2024 race if either of the likely nominees for the two major parties, President Biden and former President Trump, falter or otherwise run into trouble on the campaign trail.

His reasoning for doing so is his belief that Biden, while being a "good, decent man," is nonetheless controlled to an extent by the "far, far-left liberals" who dominate his White House staff. As for Trump, the West Virginia senator shares many of the same concerns of his fellow Democrats in that he believes the former president represents a dire threat to democracy and the future of the country.

Working to "mobilize" voters who are "politically homeless" like himself

Sen. Manchin, while technically not yet running to be president, is essentially laying the groundwork for a potential campaign with a current nationwide tour that seeks to gauge the level of support he might receive if he were to formally throw his hat in the ring as an independent candidate.

Axios reported in December that the centrist senator revealed his plans for a two-month tour beginning in January to "mobilize" voters who characterized themselves as "politically homeless."

"I don't recognize the Democratic Party and I have a D by my name," Manchin said at the time, and added, "I have a lot of Republicans who don't recognize the Republican Party that have Rs by their name."

When he first announced in November that he would not seek re-election as a senator, Manchin revealed that he intended to travel the country and get to work on "creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together."

As to the current and possible future status of that effort, Axios reported that the moderate senator played coy and said, "What I can tell you is, there might be a movement, there might not. That depends, I really don't know."

Still teasing a possible "No Labels"-affiliated independent campaign

According to the CNN report, if Sen. Manchin were to formally launch a presidential bid, it would likely be through a bipartisan group called No Labels that he previously helped found, though he has recently distanced himself somewhat from the organization amid internal conflicts and unanswered questions about its efforts and goals.

The idea behind that group is to provide a centrist "unity ticket" featuring a pair of moderate Democrats and Republicans -- though nobody can decide which party should receive the top slot -- that is intended to appeal to voters across the ideological spectrum who are dissatisfied with the "extreme" choices of Biden and Trump.

Manchin, who has frequently been mentioned as a likely candidate on such a ticket, downplayed the possibility that it would ever emerge, though he did signal in the CNN interview that, if he were to mount an independent campaign, he would likely seek to take advantage of the fact that No Labels has gained access to the general election ballot in a majority of states -- potentially enough to achieve victory in the Electoral College.

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