Joe Manchin and No Labels: A Match Made in Heaven?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has been a burr under the saddle of Joe Biden and the Democrats ever since his party took nominal control of the Senate in 2020. Manchin’s flirtation with a third-party bid for president — either as an independent or as the No Labels candidate — has brought the full force and fury of partisan Democrats, who have tried to discredit him at every turn, down on the West Virginian.

Manchin is up for re-election in 2024 and is facing an uphill climb to win a fourth term. The presumed GOP nominee is the current Gov. Jim Justice (R-W.Va.), although Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.), a Trump acolyte, will likely give Justice stiff competition. But Mooney has carpetbagging credentials because he lived in Maryland most of his life. That may prove to be too difficult to overcome.

Even though Manchin is the most popular politician in West Virginia’s history, the state has become ruby-red since Manchin was first elected governor in 2004. The 75-year-old might see a run for president as his political swan song — especially if he runs on the No Labels ticket.

Democrats are nervous about Manchin’s run more than anyone else’s because of the prospect that the senator might not only cost them the presidency but also the Senate as well.

The Hill:

The possibility of third-party candidates drawing votes has Democrats worried, but they are especially concerned Manchin, who is up for reelection in 2024, could deliver a double blow to the party: a presidential bid that harms President Biden next year and virtually hands a key Senate seat and potential majority in the chamber to the GOP.

“Joe is America’s biggest political tease,” Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, told The Hill. “And I trust that he’ll make a judgment to run for reelection in West Virginia. I hope he will.”

Durbin is whistling past the graveyard. Manchin is no doubt tired of being the squeaky wheel in the Democrats’ machine. And his feud with Joe Biden may be the deciding factor in whether the West Virginian runs or not.

The feud is over electric vehicle tax credits in the $369 billion package of clean energy incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that Manchin agreed to support with the stipulation that the EV credits would be limited. Biden doublecrossed him and made them far more expansive in the final bill.

Since then, Manchin has torpedoed some administration nominees and has refused to push the IRA in West Virginia. Might he also relish the opportunity to derail Biden’s bid for a second term?

No Labels would give Manchin the perfect opportunity to do that. An independent run for the White House would be expensive and time-consuming. Why not let a political party do all the scut work like getting him on 50 state ballots and assisting with fundraising?

Manchin will appear alongside former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) at St. Anselm College in the first of a series of “Common Sense” town halls No Labels is hosting. The incumbent senator said in a statement that most Americans are “exceedingly frustrated by the growing divide in our political parties and toxic political rhetoric from our elected leaders,” adding that he hopes discussions of this kind can be a model for voters.

“Our political discourse is lacking engaged debates around common sense solutions to solve the pressing issues facing our nation,” he said. “I am looking forward to modeling this type of conversation with my good friend, Gov. Huntsman, and the No Labels community.”

Huntsman is another name prominently mentioned as a potential No Labels nominee. Also in the mix are former GOP Maryland governor Larry Hogan, who left office with near 90% approval ratings in a very blue state, and Gov. Chris Sununu (R-N.H.). None of those gentlemen have the name recognition or the immediate credibility that Manchin currently enjoys.

A No Labels campaign would be a quixotic effort with no chance of succeeding. That means that a No Labels campaign would be a spoiler campaign — a notion that Manchin vehemently rejects.

“I’ve been in races to win. If I get in a race, I’m gonna win. With that being said, I haven’t made a decision,” he added.

No Labels leader and former New Jersey senator Joe Lieberman also rejects a spoiler role for the party.

“We’re not in this to be spoilers,” Lieberman told ABC’s “This Week” program. “If the polling next year shows, after the two parties have chosen their nominees, that in fact, we will help elect one or another candidate, we’re not going to get involved,” he said.

Manchin will make up his own mind about whether to run. Lieberman may be the party chairman, but other No Labels board members are less certain about staying out of the race.

“If we find that the polls are changed and Joe Biden is way, way out ahead, and the person who the Republicans may choose — and if they continue to choose Donald Trump, even though he’s been indicted — then No Labels will stand down,” Ben Chavis, the Democratic co-chair of No Labels told the outlet.

Biden is not going to be “way out ahead” at any point in the race. That means we can expect a No Labels Party challenge to Biden in 2024.



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