West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who for years wielded outsized power in the Democratic Party, appeared Monday at an event hosted by a political group exploring a third-party presidential bid. Manchin’s appearance fueled speculation that he was planning to run for president, a scenario that has Democrats alarmed because it could weaken President Joe Biden’s candidacy.
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Manchin appeared at the No Labels group’s town hall meeting on Monday, alongside former Utah Republican Governor Jon Huntsman. They co-headlined the organization’s “Common Sense” political platform post, the first in a series of events the group says it will organize as the 2024 presidential election takes shape.
Manchin, a 75-year-old senator who faces re-election next year, has not ruled out running for president instead of seeking another term in the Senate. If he runs on a bipartisan, centrist ticket, polls show he would likely be doomed while undermining Biden voters. Democratic groups have worked to crack down on attempts to field third-party spoiler candidates, warning that doing so could hand Trump the presidency.
“It’s pretty clear that a No Labels candidate would help re-elect Donald Trump, and I hope anyone thinking about it will recognize that’s a very possible outcome,” Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen told the Hill.
At the start of the town hall event, moderator Kevin Cirilli asked Manchin and Huntsman if what the audience saw on stage was the No Labels presidential ticket.
“What we’re here to do is basically explain to you that we need options,” Manchin swerved, adding that in his view the country’s two main parties had shifted to “the far left and the extreme right”.
Manchin told the audience that he believed the only way to alienate Republicans and Democrats from their respective platforms was to “threat” them with independents. When asked if he would reconsider his candidacy if it meant he would potentially act as a spoiler in the presidential race, Manchin dismissed the premise.
“I’ve never been in any race I’ve ever messed up, I’ve been in races to win and if I go in a race I’m going to win,” Manchin said to cheers. “That being said, I haven’t made a decision.”
Manchin is in a familiar position as a potential spoiler for Biden’s ambitions. As one of the most conservative Democrats and a key vote in the Senate, Manchin has blocked action on climate change, repeatedly criticized Biden’s policies and derailed administration efforts to pass legislation. major.
No Labels sees Manchin as a potential candidate for its centrist platform, and the senator has been on at least one conference call with the group, according to Politico. Although No Labels said it would not field a candidate if its platform did not gain popularity or it looked like it would tip the vote in favor of a party, the group actively raised funds. and seeks to be elected throughout the country.
Manchin also praised No Labels during an interview last month on Fox News, in which the senator deflected questions about a possible third-party nomination and said he was “not ruling anything out.”
While No Labels has strongly promoted its vision of centrist governance – “America must balance protecting women’s rights to control their own reproductive health with our society’s responsibility to protect human life” is one example. of his political booklet – but he remained silent about who is funding his efforts. A Mother Jones investigation last month found dozens of wealthy contributors, many of whom supported conservative and Republican causes. Another New Republic investigation revealed that Harlan Crow, the conservative billionaire and supporter of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, had donated more than $130,000 to the group.
Polls indicate that a third-party candidate would most likely be a threat to Democrats. Multiple surveys in recent months show that in a contest between Biden and Trump, the presence of a third-party candidate — including Manchin or progressive activist Cornel West — shifts voting percentages toward Republicans. A poll commissioned by Democratic and Republican strategists this month showed the presence of a “moderate, independent third-party candidate” would win about 20% of the vote and result in an election victory for Trump.