Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia, may be on his way out of the party. For many, it is not a surprise. Manchin is seen as the most Republican of Democrats and has been one of the biggest thorns in the Biden administration’s side thus far. His possible departure, however, worries the White House just over a year before the election.
West Virginia is far from a contested state. One of the poorest in the country, Trump won there with nearly 69% of the vote. The last time a Democrat took state delegates was in 1996, with Bill Clinton. Even as a Democrat, Manchin responds to the desires of a conservative electorate.
Manchin was especially opposed to the White House proposals related to the environment. Not coincidentally, he was the member of Congress who received the largest donations from gas, oil and coal companies. In the impasse over the Debt Ceiling, it was he who pushed the construction of a gas pipeline in the final approved proposal.
The senator has sometimes sided with the Republicans on key issues. This is the case of immigration, where he openly defended Title 42, a measure instituted during the Trump administration that prevented immigrants from seeking asylum at the land border. In May, he allied with Republicans to overturn Biden’s measure that ended penalties for immigrants using social services.
But the West Virginia senator is not alone. Krysten Sinema, senator from Arizona, was also a dissident Democrat (right) during the first 2 years of the Biden administration. She left the party in December 2022 and became an independent. Yesterday (10), Joe Manchin said in an interview to a radio that he seriously thinks about doing the same.
What scares the White House is not Manchin’s departure, but the reason for his departure. The senator has already stated that he is thinking of launching a third-way candidacy for the 2024 elections. The chances of victory are tiny, almost non-existent, but he can cause Joe Biden to bleed in key states, delivering victory to the Republican opponent.
In 2020, Joe Biden won key states by an extremely tight margin: 0.23% in Georgia, 0.3% in Arizona, 0.63% in Wisconsin, 1.17% in Pennsylvania and so on. With Manchin in the running, even with a very small and unimpressive vote, he could rob Biden of the advantage he needs to carry these key delegates into his re-election plan.
In his fight against the government, Joe Manchin got what he wanted: to be treated as the most important senator by the White House. He recently had dinner with one of Joe Biden’s top aides. The reason would be for the president not to be taken by surprise with some bomb announcement by the senator.
Next week, the White House will hold an event to celebrate the one year anniversary of the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. The theme has been overshadowed, however, since Manchin has stated that he will not attend. A stone in the shoe that could become a major obstacle to Joe Biden’s pretensions.
Editing: Rodrigo Durão Coelho