Manchin is the monkey wrench in the political gears
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin has been described as a maverick Democrat senator. He is certainly the least progressive – if not the most conservative – of Senate Democrats. He and Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema stopped President Biden from completely fulfilling his big spending agenda.
Manchin has been a popular figure in West Virginia for many years – holding the Senate seat for Democrats in a very red Republican state. But that was coming to an end. Most political observers rated Manchin’s chances of reelection in 2024 as near zero.
Manchin’s decision to not run for reelection all but assures the West Virginia seat will flip to the GOP – and greatly enhances Republican chances of taking control of the Senate. They would only have to pick up one more seat – and there at least half dozen highly vulnerable Democrat senators up for reelection.
While the likely loss of the West Virginia senate seat is a significant blow to the Democratic Party, there is a much more ominous cloud on the political horizon in terms of Manchin.
For several months there has been curiosity about Manchin’s future plans. Would he take on Biden in the Democrat primaries? Would he run as an independent or third-party candidate. Manchin added fuel to that speculation by attending a No Labels Party (NLP) event in New Hampshire.
NLP is a group of unaligned fat cats and political operatives exploring the possibility of challenging the two major party candidates. While third-party efforts have been unsuccessful in the past, NLP believes that voter dislike for both Biden and Trump provide a unique opportunity.
Perhaps the most important part of Manchin’s withdrawal from the senate race was his plans for the future. They were not specific but fraught with meaning. He said he planned to remain active in politics – and would be travelling the country to see if there was interest in middle-of-the-road politics. What Manchin is doing looks and sounds like an exploratory campaign for a presidential bid.
Trump is fighting off a number of challengers within the Republican Party. Biden has a couple of challengers in the Democrat primaries — Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips and spiritual advisor Marianne Williamson being the most prominent. He also has three notable liberal Democrats mounting third-party bids. They include Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. – a bit of a gadfly candidate who is remarkably pulling down 20-plus percent of the vote. Black activist Cornel West, who will pull away some of Biden’s Black vote – which is already shrinking. And perennial leftwing candidate Jill Stein.
They all pose a threat to Biden, but not as much as Manchin. If Manchin jumps in, he will be the big political monkey wrench grinding the teeth off of Biden’s political machine.
If Manchin becomes an independent or NLP candidate, he will not likely win the presidency. Like the other outliers, he will not be on the ballot in all the states – meaning he will fall short of the prerequisite 270 electoral votes to become President. The fear on the left is that Manchin’s candidacy would be the coup de grace to Biden’s dream of a second term, however.
The two potential results of a Manchin campaign would be the election of Trump – if he is the GOP standard bearer – or (and this is the scary one) no one – neither Biden nor Trump –secures 270 electoral votes. That could happen if Manchin or one of the others win electors in a couple of states. While he could not get on the ballot in all states, he could pick up electors in half a dozen purple states. So could Kennedy – especially states that apportion the electors as opposed to winner-take-all states.
According to the Constitution, when the Electoral College cannot come up with a winner, the decision passes on to the United States House of Representative. Each state gets one vote in that process. There are more Democrat voters in America, but they are concentrated in the big states, such as New York and California. No matter the size of the population, states only get one vote in electing a President if the responsibility falls onto the House.
Republicans have more states represented in Congress – albeit smaller states. So even if Democrats were to win control of the House in 2024, Republicans would still have a clear advantage in picking the 47th President.
That means that Trump COULD lose the popular vote … lose the electoral vote … and still become President of the United States — legitimately. While that is not likely, it is more possible today than it ever was – and if Manchin enters the fray, he could be the weight that tips the political scales in that direction.
When pointing out that in the past independent and third-party candidacies fail miserably, we should keep in mind that never in the past have the two likely candidates of the two major parties been so unpopular with so many voters on both sides.
The only thing that can be said at this point is stay tuned. It will be very interesting.
So, there ‘tis.