WASHINGTON — Centrist Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced Thursday he won’t run for re-election next year, a much anticipated decision that will reshape the battle for Senate control in 2024.
“After months of deliberation and long conversations with my family, I believe in my heart of hearts that I have accomplished what I set out to do for West Virginia. I have made one of the toughest decisions of my life and decided that I will not be running for re-election to the United States Senate, but 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,” Manchin said in a written and video statement.
“To the West Virginians who have put their trust in me and fought side by side to make our state better — it has been an honor of my life to serve you. Thank you,” he said.
The decision by Manchin, a former governor who was elected to the Senate in a 2010 special election, is an earthquake in the battle for the Senate majority. It all but assures Republicans a pickup in the ruby-red state of West Virginia, where Manchin has defied political gravity for years by keeping the seat in his party’s hands. Donald Trump won the state by 39 points in 2020.
Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a terse statement: “We like our odds in West Virginia.”
Gov. Jim Justice and Rep. Alex Mooney are both already running for the Republican nomination for the seat.
“Senator Joe Manchin and I have not always agreed on policy and politics, but we’re both lifelong West Virginians who love this state beyond belief, and I respect and thank him for his many years of public service,” Justice said.
Democrats do not have a viable alternative to Manchin in the state.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Thursday expressed confidence that the party would hold Senate control, without mentioning Manchin.
“Senate Democrats are in strong shape and are well-positioned to hold, strengthen, and bolster our majority and continue to deliver for American families,” Schumer said in a brief statement on X.
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson David Bergstein elaborated by saying, “In addition to defending our battle-tested incumbents, we’ve already expanded the battleground map to Texas and Florida, where formidable Democratic candidates are out-raising unpopular Republican incumbents and the DSCC is making investments to lay the groundwork for our campaigns’ victories.”
Democrats have had a love-hate relationship with Manchin, who has often been a thorn in the side of President Joe Biden’s priorities and forced him to scale back his ambitious domestic agenda.
But Manchin was also the linchpin of the 50-50 Democratic Senate in 2021 and 2022. Without his seat, the chamber would have been run by Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., not Schumer. Manchin provided the crucial vote to enable many of Biden’s policy victories — including the American Rescue Plan, the Inflation Reduction Act and scores of new federal judges.
In terms of Manchin’s future, a source with direct knowledge of his plans said: “No specific decisions have been made other than a commitment to find a way to change the country’s political dialogue.”