Sen. Joe Manchin, the moderate Democrat from West Virginia, announced Thursday that he won’t seek reelection to the Senate.
In a video posted online, Manchin said he will be “traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together.”
“To the West Virginians who have put their trust in me and fought side by side to make our state better, it has been my honor of my life to serve you,” he said.
He added: “The growing divide between Democrats and Republicans is paralyzing Congress and worsening our nation’s problems. The majority of Americans are just plain worn out.”
Manchin, a former West Virginia governor, has served in the Senate since 2010. In recent years, as a centrist Democrat, he has served as a swing vote and sometimes worked with Republicans on high-profile legislation related to infrastructure, gun safety, and election reform.
Manchin narrowly won re-election in 2018, and has trailed in polling against Gov. Jim Justice ever since the governor entered the Senate race in April. Democrats were hopeful that Rep. Alex Mooney, a conservative backed by the Club for Growth, could beat Justice in a primary or complicate his path to the nomination. Those hopes faded last month, when Donald Trump endorsed Justice.
Manchin’s decision to not seek re-election deals an enormous blow to Democratic hopes to keep control of the Senate in the 2024 election. They currently enjoy a 51-49 governing majority.
But Senate Democrats are defending more vulnerable seats than Republicans, with Montana, Ohio, and West Virginia posing major challenges as states that Trump carried in 2020. West Virginia appears likely to flip to GOP control given Trump carried it by about 39 percentage points.
“We like our odds in West Virginia,” National Republican Senatorial Committee chair Steve Daines said in a statement shortly after Manchin’s announcement.
Manchin has recently flirted with a third-party presidential run, particularly under the banner of centrist policy group No Labels, and hasn’t ruled it out.
Third Way executive vice president Matt Bennett, who has warned that a No Labels candidacy would re-elect Trump in 2024, said he was skeptical that the 76-year old senator would seek its nomination. “They’ve been clear they’re looking for a Republican at the top,” he said. “He won’t run as Admiral Stockdale.”
The West Virginia Democrat held outsized sway over President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda and often frustrated his Democratic colleagues during the first two years of Biden’s presidency. Many Democrats sought to eliminate the 60-vote threshold in the Senate to expand voting rights and pass other economic priorities when they controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House.
But Manchin often served as a brake against progressive ambitions, and ultimately torpedoed large swaths of Biden’s Build Back Better plan, including Democratic efforts to extend an expanded child tax credit.
Manchin eventually became a chief architect of the Inflation Reduction Act, Biden’s signature climate, health, and tax law that passed with only Democratic votes in August 2022. Yet Manchin has repeatedly lambasted the Biden administration for their implementation of the law, arguing they’ve attempted to undermine fossil fuel in favor of clean energy programs and electric vehicles.
In the wake of Manchin’s stunning announcement, some Democratic senators said they were disappointed to see him go. Manchin lent his support to other Democratic priorities like confirming federal judges and a $1.9 trillion stimulus law credited with helping the US outperform other wealthy nations economically after the pandemic.
“Without his vote, we’d have accomplished a whole lot less these past couple of years,” Sen. Mark Warner, a frequent legislative partner to Manchin, said on X.
David Weigel contributed reporting.