Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia posted a flowery farewell video Tuesday, announcing he would not seek reelection to the Senate.
But this was no retirement speech. Rather, it reeked of being a preamble to a third-party presidential bid with No Labels, the dodgy dark money group that has been shopping around a bipartisan 2024 "unity" ticket.
Instead of running for reelection, Manchin said, "what I will be doing is 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.”
Mobilizing the middle and bringing Americans together sure is a nice idea. Too bad virtually no voting bloc is clamoring for a Manchin presidential bid. In fact, according to Civiqs tracking of Manchin's favorable rating, voters of every partisan stripe in his home state hold a uniquely low opinion of Manchin.
Manchin's ratings among registered voters in West Virginia (which aren't public, but I'm sharing the screenshots below) sit at 18% favorable, 66% unfavorable (with 16% unsure).
Manchin polls highest among independents (the middle!) at 19% favorability (yikes!), falling to 16% with Democrats and 17% with Republicans.
Manchin can wax poetic about following the "guiding light" of public service all he wants, but a No Labels "unity" ticket led by him will accomplish exactly one thing: the reelection of four-time criminal indictee Donald Trump, should he be the Republican nominee.
In fact, when Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah announced his retirement in September, he brushed off questions about taking part in No Labels' 2024 effort for that very reason. As The Washington Post's Dan Balz wrote upon news of Romney's retirement:
He also said that talk by the centrist group No Labels of mounting an independent candidacy in 2024 was a mistake and would only help to reelect Trump. He said he has spoken “many times” to Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who is flirting with such a bid. “I lobby continuously that it would only elect Trump.”
No Labels sought to blunt the criticism that its ticket would be nothing but a "spoiler" for President Joe Biden’s reelection bid by presenting their electoral path to 270. Beyond employing a lot of fuzzy math, it included at least one fatal flaw: the idea that such a ticket could win Florida's windfall of 30 electoral votes. Veteran Sunshine State strategist Steve Schale killed that magical thinking in a column pointing to the very recent history of Charlie Crist's 2010 independent bid for the U.S. Senate.
Crist, who ran for Governor in 2006 and largely governed as a centrist, found himself in a heated primary with then Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, who found himself riding the GOP Tea Party wave — a wave that each passing day put Crist’s brand of GOP politics further out of style.
Recognizing his primary prospects were quickly diminishing, in April 2010, Crist announced he was going to run as an independent. ...
In the end — despite some polls still showing he was the most popular candidate in the field — partisan voting behavior won out, and Crist didn’t get close to either, with Rubio cruising to a very easy win.
One thing is certain: Whoever No Labels selects won’t have anywhere near the currency that Charlie Crist had in 2010 with the Florida electorate. And if Crist couldn’t get close…
The truth is, Manchin is among the least qualified politicians in the country to energize any viable grassroots movement from the ground up. Any such effort would be little more than an ego trip fueled by donors’ runaway fantasies.
Unfortunately, that vanity run would also be uniquely dangerous. Any candidate or third-party run that saps votes from the pro-democracy coalition that aligned in 2020 to reject Donald Trump's second term could ultimately help reelect the wannabe autocrat in 2024. Manchin already started down that path in his announcement, repeating a laundry list of policy concerns such as “out of control” national debt and Americans feeling unsafe “even in their own communities” that sounded curiously like anti-Biden talking points.
As data analyst Tom Bonier pointed out following Manchin’s announcement, “If you are an independent candidate running for president, and all you're talking about is how bad things are in this country, you are nothing more than a Trump surrogate and should be treated as such.”
The band is back together, and it is a glorious day as Markos and Kerry’s hot takes over the past year came true—again! Republicans continue to lose at the ballot box and we are here for it!