The potential circumstances that might lead to Joe Manchin’s return to the Senate

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) never fails to keep the political world on its toes, and he’s at it again with his latest announcement. He’s teasing a “long-shot scenario” that involves reconsidering his retirement as West Virginia’s senior senator.

The 76-year-old Democrat recently had a discussion about a potential scenario where he could enter the Senate race as an independent, with the support of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). However, he also admitted that he is unlikely to change his mind about not seeking reelection.

“I don’t think that’s likely to happen,” Manchin told CNN. “So I don’t expect it to happen.”

According to Democratic sources familiar with the senator’s thoughts, he may consider entering the race if Don Blankenship emerges as the winner of the Democratic primary in the state. It should be noted that Blankenship, a former West Virginia coal executive, has recently filed paperwork to run as a Democrat for the seat that Senator Manchin will be vacating. It is worth mentioning that Blankenship previously ran for Senate as a Republican in 2018, but was unsuccessful.

In 2015, Blankenship was convicted of conspiring to violate federal safety standards at a coal mine. This mine experienced a tragic explosion in 2010, resulting in the loss of 29 lives. Manchin acknowledged that his perspective might shift if Blankenship were to become the nominee and compete against the leading Republican candidate, Governor Jim Justice (R-WV).

“I completely understand the situation,” Manchin expressed during an interview with CNN. “It is important to me that our state is adequately represented by someone who genuinely cares about our well-being. Therefore, we will have to wait and see how things progress, particularly after the primary elections.”

According to Jon Reinish, a Democratic strategist, he believes that it might be advantageous for Manchin to enter the race if Blankenship is chosen as the Democratic nominee. This would provide Democrats and independents in the state with an alternative choice.

According to Reinish, there are still a significant number of partisan Democrats remaining in West Virginia who will not support Don Blankenship. Likewise, independents are unlikely to rally behind him as well.

Manchin has until the August 1 filing deadline to finalize his decision on whether to run as an independent. In November, he made the announcement that he would not seek reelection in the Senate this fall. Despite much speculation, he ultimately chose not to pursue a third-party bid for the presidency.

Reinish envisions a scenario in which Manchin’s entry into the race could potentially lead to him gaining a significant portion of the voters.

According to him, he believes that the candidate has the potential to divert votes from Jim Justice. He firmly believes that this would not benefit Justice in any way. In fact, he would prefer to have Joe Manchin’s vote as an independent in the Senate rather than Jim Justice’s vote as a Republican. He goes on to say that Joe Manchin has essentially acted as an independent for a long time, and this shift wouldn’t come as a surprise.

The 2024 Senate seat map presents a favorable outlook for Republicans. A total of 20 seats currently held by Democrats, along with the three seats held by independents who align with the Democrats, will be up for election. Conversely, only 10 seats held by Republicans will be on the ballot. Nevertheless, there is potential for a shake-up in the West Virginia Senate race with the late entry of Manchin as an independent, altering the previous assumption that West Virginia would be a Republican victory following Manchin’s retirement announcement.

“I understand that Manchin has expressed skepticism about this possibility, but I can’t help but feel excited about the potential impact it would have on this election cycle! Personally, I hope he goes through with it. It would compel Republicans to redirect their resources and attention towards the state, ultimately diverting their focus from other key battlegrounds,” shared a West Virginia Democrat, who preferred to remain anonymous while discussing this scenario.

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