Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia announces he won't seek reelection in 2024
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
Democrats in West Virginia are waking up to a new reality.
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
And Republicans there are seeing an opportunity to pick up a Senate seat that's long been out of reach.
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JOE MANCHIN: After months of deliberation and long conversation with my family, I believe in my heart of hearts that I have accomplished what I set out to do for West Virginia.
FADEL: That's Democrat Joe Manchin announcing in a video news release that he will not run for reelection.
MARTÍNEZ: Here to tell us more is NPR's Dave Mistich, who joins us now from Morgantown, W.V. Dave, Manchin is a moderate from a red state. He holds a lot of power because Democrats hold a very slim majority in the Senate, so how does he wield that influence?
DAVE MISTICH, BYLINE: Well, he sometimes really irked his own party and changed the dynamics of key legislation and votes. Going all the way back to the Trump era, Manchin was the only Democrat who voted to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. And Manchin has also been rather pivotal in influencing legislation pushed by the Biden administration, notably the Inflation Reduction Act and a bipartisan bill on infrastructure. He also managed to slip a provision into the debt ceiling bill that expedited a long stalled pipeline that runs through West Virginia and into Virginia, much to the dismay of many of his Democratic colleagues in Congress. State Senator Mike Caputo, one of the few Democrats holding a seat in the state House, had this to say about Manchin.
MIKE CAPUTO: The most powerful Joe in Washington is not Joe Biden, it's Joe Manchin, because he really held the big stick in the Senate and was able to maneuver, and I hate to use the word play, but able to work the system as well as anybody.
MARTÍNEZ: So now that he's putting that stick down in the Senate, I mean, what does this do to the balance of power there?
MISTICH: Well, quite frankly, it gives a big advantage to Republicans seeking to flip that seat. It's one that's been seen as pivotal as to who will control the Senate following next year's elections. And it's a big loss for Democrats here in West Virginia. Republicans took over the state House in Charleston in 2014 for the first time in more than eight decades. Manchin is the only Democrat representing the state in Congress. And then you have former President Donald Trump, who dominated here in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. Democrats here, they tell me that they don't feel like Manchin calculated a loss if he ran again. But, you know, they say they see it as him feeling like this was just time to walk away from the Senate. Realistically, though, if he was in this race, Manchin would have been in for a tough fight for sure. And, you know, there's two strong Republican candidates already in the race, Republican Governor Jim Justice, who has been endorsed by former President Trump, and Alex Mooney, who currently holds a seat in Congress.
MARTÍNEZ: All right. So now that he dropped this on West Virginia, he dropped this on the Senate, what's he going to do next?
MISTICH: Well, Manchin says he will travel the country to gauge interest in a movement to, quote, "mobilize the middle." He's been featured at events sponsored by the group No Labels, which has been focused on a third-party ticket, drawing questions about whether or not he is considering a run for president himself. No Labels sent me over a statement last night that said that the Senate is losing a great leader in Manchin. But they said they're still gathering input on what they call a unity ticket, and they say they won't announce their plans until 2024. And if President Biden is concerned at all about how a third-party run might affect his own plans for reelection, he isn't really showing it when it comes to Manchin. The president put out a statement last night thanking the senator for some key wins for his administration.
MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, they've known each other a long time. That's NPR's Dave Mistich. Dave, thanks a lot.
MISTICH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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