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Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia, said he will not seek-re-election in 2024 and instead “fight to unite the middle”, sending shockwaves through Joe Biden’s party and giving Republicans a significant opportunity to pick up a crucial Senate seat.
Manchin, who made millions at a coal brokerage firm, has served in the Senate since 2010, and long been a divisive figure on Capitol Hill.
A self-described “conservative Democrat”, he has championed bipartisanship and worked with Republicans on several crucial pieces of legislation. He has often proven to be a thorn in the side of his Democratic colleagues.
In recent years he wielded outsized power as the deciding vote in several legislative battles — especially during the first two years of the Biden administration, when the Senate was split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans. Many Democrats blamed him for blocking their efforts to scrap the filibuster, a Senate convention that requires the tacit support of at least 60 senators for most pieces of legislation.
“I’ve never cared about where good ideas came from and I never blamed one side for creating a problem nor believed only one side could fix them,” Manchin said in a statement on Thursday afternoon announcing he would not be running for another six-year term.
“When America is at her best, we get things done by putting country before party, working across the aisle and finding common ground. Many times, this approach has landed me in hot water, but the fight to unite has been well worth it,” he added.
But Manchin’s departure will be seen as a blow to Democrats as they try to hold on to control of the Senate in next year’s elections. His successor in the upper chamber of Congress is exceedingly likely to be a Republican.
Democrats currently hold 51 seats in the Senate and Republicans hold 49.
Steve Daines, the Republican senator from Montana who chairs the party’s campaign arm in the Senate, said in a statement: “We like our odds in West Virginia.” Former president Donald Trump beat Biden in West Virginia by a nearly 40-point margin in 2020.
Manchin described the choice not to run again as “one of the toughest decisions of my life”, but left the door open to remaining in politics and seeking higher office. Those comments are likely to raise concern among some Democrats who are worried the West Virginia senator could mount a third-party bid for president.
Earlier this year, he appeared in the early-voting state of New Hampshire at an event sponsored by No Labels, the dark money group that is trying to draft a third-party candidate. Democrats say the effort could split the national vote in a way that would hurt Biden’s chances of re-election.
“What I will be doing is travelling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilise the middle and bring Americans together,” Manchin said.
“I know our country isn’t as divided as Washington wants us to believe,” he added. “We need to take back America and not let this divisive hatred further pull us apart.”
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