After months of speculation, Sen. Manchin now says he will not launch independent presidential run

 February 17, 2024

Fueled in large part by his actions and words, there has been speculation for months that moderate retiring Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) might launch an independent or third-party presidential bid as an alternative to likely major party nominees President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

Manchin put an abrupt end to those rumors on Friday, however, when he declared decisively during a speech that he would not launch a presidential campaign in the current election cycle, Politico reported.

That undoubtedly will be heralded as great news by Democrats who were legitimately worried that an independent centrist presidential run by Manchin would result in the re-election of Trump by drawing moderate voters away from Biden who otherwise would likely support the incumbent president's bid for a second term.

Manchin teased a presidential bid for months

Politico reported that Sen. Manchin, who announced late last year that he wouldn't run for the Senate again, has spent the past two months on a nationwide tour that was intended to gauge public support for a possible moderate presidential ticket.

That tour may well have ended Friday, along with his White House ambitions, in the speech he delivered to a crowd at the University of West Virginia.

Interestingly enough, the possibility of a presidential run seemed alive and well just one day earlier when Manchin had suggested during an event in Ohio that he would likely ask fellow moderate and retiring Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), who twice failed to capture the White House in 2008 and 2012, to be his running mate.

However, that same day, Utah's Deseret News reported that Romney said jokingly in response to Manchin's comments, "Well, that’s really presumptuous. I would be the president. He would be my running mate," but then added more seriously, "No, I’m not going to run for president. Certainly, I’m not running for vice president. But (Manchin is) kind to say that. We’re good friends."

Manchin now says he is not running

"I will not be seeking a third-party run. I will not be involved in a presidential run," Manchin told the audience, according to NBC News. "I will be involved in making sure that we secure a president that has the knowledge and has the passion and has the ability to bring this country together."

He suggested that while third-party or independent candidates might find more success in the future, such a bid in the current cycle would be "very challenging," and he further addressed the concerns of worried Democrats by stating that he had no desire to play the role of a "spoiler" in the likely rematch election between Presidents Biden and Trump.

"I just don’t think it’s the right time," Manchin added of an independent presidential campaign. "We’re on a real teetering situation here that could go either way. Democracy is at stake right now."

NBC News further reported that the West Virginia senator revealed in his speech that he'd just had a "very respectful" conversation with Biden earlier that day to inform him of his decision not to run, as well as spent time discussing the highly partisan nature of Congress and Washington D.C. that he had grown disgusted with.

No Labels centrist group pressing on with possible presidential ticket

Sen. Manchin had for several years been closely associated with the centrist No Labels organization and was widely regarded as the top prospect to lead a bipartisan "unity ticket" of moderate candidates the group has considered fielding in the 2024 race, according to the Associated Press.

That plan has apparently not been completely derailed by the senator's announced decision to not run for the presidency this year, at least based on a joint statement issued Friday by the organization's three co-chairs -- former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, and former NAACP head Benjamin Chavis Jr.

Their statement said, "No Labels is currently speaking with several exceptional leaders about serving on the presidential Unity ticket. We are continuing to make great progress on our ballot access efforts and will announce in the coming weeks whether we will offer our line to a Unity ticket."

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