A leftover from last night, but very much still of interest for the next few weeks. I’m torn on what Joe Manchin wanted to accomplish in this interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier. There are three possible strategies for declaring that he won’t vote to allow Kamala Harris to push the Senate into a “Green New Deal or socialism” via a 50-50 tiebreaker:

West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III wants to make clear that he will not be the 50th vote in favor of eliminating the legislative filibuster or expanding the size of the Supreme Court in a potential 50-50 Senate. …

Democrats still have a narrow path to a Senate majority if they are able to prevail in two January runoff elections in Georgia, assuming Republicans currently leading in North Carolina and Alaska win. But in a move that seems partly designed to interfere with GOP talking points about the risks of unified Democratic government, Manchin appeared Monday on Fox News to declare dead several progressive priorities.

“I commit to you tonight, and I commit to all of your viewers and everyone else that’s watching. I want to allay those fears, I want to rest those fears for you right now because when they talk about whether it be packing the courts, or ending the filibuster, I will not vote to do that,” Manchin said in the interview. “I will not vote to pack the courts … and I will not vote to end the filibuster.”

Manchin said that in his estimation, efforts to defund the police and advance “Medicare for All” lacked support among members of the Senate Democratic Conference as well.

Here are the three scenarios, which aren’t entirely mutually exclusive:

  1. The Runoff Scenario — Manchin is being put out on national television by Senate Democrats’ leadership in a pitch to counter GOP messaging in Georgia. Democrats historically blew an opportunity to convert on a presidential victory and a numeric advantage in Senate races. They are now trying to counter the progressives’ year-long control of the party messaging by promising Georgia voters that Manchin will stand guard against the progressives even if they elect the two Democrats in January 5’s runoffs.
  2. The Olive Branch Scenario — Manchin wants to ensure moderation and cooperation in the incoming Joe Biden/Harris administration and is making it clear what won’t work, even in a 50/50+Harris scenario. At the same time, Manchin is holding out an olive branch to Republicans for serious cooperation on mutual interests. If everyone works with Manchin, both parties will benefit from a new era of bipartisanship.
  3. The Party-Switch Scenario — This interview was aimed at Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to make it clear that he’s thisclose to jumping ship if progressives continue to control the agenda and the messaging, especially on energy. If they can’t control themselves, Manchin will do it for them by cutting them out of any kind of control.

Frankly, it’s tough to choose between these three, and there could be layers of each in Manchin’s mind. It’s very difficult to believe in the first scenario, however; Manchin doesn’t have any reason to support the election of progressives like Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, especially when the latter won’t distance himself from the court-packing demands that Manchin ridicules here.

Best guess is that Manchin wants to project the second scenario publicly while making the third scenario clear sotto voce. Note well that Manchin never explicitly rules out a party switch under any and all circumstances; Baier mentions Schumer using committee chairmanships as a lever to win his votes on progressive agenda items, but Mitch McConnell could do the same thing to convince Manchin to switch now. And with Republicans more likely than not to win one if not both of those Georgia runoffs, McConnell might actually have the goods to offer in such a deal — but it’s only worth it if Manchin takes up the offer before January 5. After a GOP win on that date, McConnell won’t need Manchin to flip.

Let’s end with two reactions to Manchin’s declaration. First off, the NRSC’s senior adviser isn’t buying it, likely believing this is a Scenario One declaration:

On the other hand, this is the treatment to which Manchin can look forward over the next couple of years within his own party:

Scenario Three looks like the most promising path, but if so, Manchin had better call McConnell soon. Operators are standing by.

Update: I have corrected Warnock’s first name to “Raphael.”