Normally I’d cite this as a classic example of conservative Democrat Joe Manchin being out of step with his party. But wanting an alternative to Biden in 2024 is as mainstream as liberalism gets nowadays.
Can you imagine the reception this guy is going to get at the 2024 Republican National Convention when he walks out to deliver the keynote address endorsing GOP nominee Ron DeSantis? It’ll be Zell Miller 2004 times a thousand.
Or rather, it would have been Zell Miller 2004 times a thousand if not for last night’s Great Betrayal.
Chris Cuomo interviewed Manchin this week and was shocked that a sitting senator wouldn’t instantly endorse an incumbent president from his own party. I’m pretty shocked myself. Progressive scourges like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have already affirmed when asked that they’re all aboard the Biden train, that they won’t support primary challengers in 2024, and that party unity is essential when faced with the possibility of a second Trump term.
Joe Manchin, though? He’s open to voting Republican next time.
“I don’t know who is going to be running. If Joe Biden runs again and he is the Democratic nominee, depending on who the Republican nominee is, we will just have to wait and see,” Manchin told Cuomo. “I am not predicting anything or how I would support or not support, or get involved or not. But I can tell you this, whoever the elected president is — Democrat, Republican, independent — every one of us should pray they succeed. I am going to do everything I can to make that person successful.”
I knew there were hard feelings on Manchin’s end towards the White House, specifically Ron Klain, from the interminable Build Back Better saga last year. But I didn’t realize they were this hard.
Although, having read this WaPo story last month, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Title: “How the White House lost Joe Manchin, and its plan to transform America.” Which turns out to have been premature, but I digress.
The statement drafted by White House aides two days later named Manchin as the focus of negotiations. White House aides sent a draft of the statement to Manchin’s office ahead of its release. Manchin’s chief of staff responded by asking the White House legislative director either to remove the senator’s name or to add Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
The White House issued the statement anyway. The president had personally signed off on it. But Manchin exploded, texting a senior Biden aide that the decision was “unconscionable and extremely dangerous” at a time when liberal activists were targeting Manchin’s family with protests.
Three days later, Manchin declared his opposition to the legislation on Fox News. The negotiations never recovered, and Build Back Better — encompassing years of Democratic policy aspirations to reduce child poverty, transform the nation’s housing system, enact new early education programs, tax the rich, and more — was effectively dead.
After his Fox News interview, Manchin turned his phone off, which meant he missed a call from Biden, who left a frustrated voice mail. When the pair connected, the conversation was heated and tense. For several weeks, Biden and Manchin did not speak again. In private, the president criticized Manchin to aides, expressing doubt about his intentions.
As recently as a week ago, the White House was still “fuming” at Manchin for having walked away from BBB — or so they thought. It sounds like he and Schumer cut Biden (and Klain) completely out of the process and worked on a deal themselves, knowing at this point that a desperate administration would endorse anything the two could come to terms on. Which is precisely what happened.
Once the Biden-sized thorn in Manchin’s side was removed, compromise was possible after all. Imagine the deals he’ll strike with President DeSantis!
The clip below would have gone down very, very badly in the president’s inner circle if it had appeared 48 hours ago, but with Manchin having just handed Biden the biggest policy victory of his presidency, I’m guessing they’ll laugh it off as Joe being Joe. Besides, while Manchin might be open in theory to a Republican in 2024, he’s pretty clearly not open to Trump. How would he endorse someone for president whom he voted to impeach — twice?
His lack of support for Biden isn’t even the newsiest part of this, as you’ll see if you watch for a few minutes. Eventually Cuomo asks Manchin if he’ll consider running for president himself, expecting him to quickly rule it out. He does not, an interesting non-denial on a day when third-party fever is in the air. Reports circulated awhile ago that some major donors were trying to cajole Manchin into a 2024 bid, believing that he’d built a unique profile over the past two years as an independent who can steer the two parties towards more centrist consensus solutions. Is Manchin thinking about it? Watch and wonder.