SPOTLIGHT | WV-gov | WV-sen

The Manchin Calculus

The senator's interest in running for governor carries plenty of potential implications.

Sen. Joe Manchin,, calls out to his supporters after he was re-elected Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Charleston, W.Va.
AP Photo/Tyler Evert
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Kyle Trygstad
Jan. 11, 2019, 9:35 a.m.

Sen. Joe Manchin isn’t alone among former governors in the Capitol who miss their old jobs, but his quadrennial interest in running for it carries the most risk for his party under the dome.

President Trump’s largest 2016 vote share (69 percent) came in Manchin’s home state of West Virginia, and it's hard to imagine any other Democrat pulling off a 3-point Senate win there just two years later. While others are eying a challenge to Democrat-turned-Republican Gov. Jim Justice, Manchin’s candidacy would instantly make it a top pickup opportunity.

A victory next year wouldn’t immediately affect the caucus, as Manchin would appoint a replacement to serve in the Senate for two years. However, a 2022 special election would put the seat in jeopardy two years ahead of schedule—with the chamber likely to still be closely divided. The state’s move away from Democrats in recent years puts additional pressure on appointing someone capable of capitalizing on their brief incumbency, both in the special and, ideally for the party, in the regularly scheduled 2024 election.

But looking at it another way, if there was any expectation Manchin would consider retiring in 2024 anyway, this scenario at least gives Democrats a running start.

-- Kyle Trygstad


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