WASHINGTON ― Vulnerable Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced Thursday he won’t seek reelection, paving the way for Republicans to easily pick up a Senate seat next year.
“After months of deliberation and long conversations with my family, I believe in my heart of hearts that I have accomplished what I set out to do for West Virginia,” Manchin said in a statement. “I have made one of the toughest decisions of my life and decided that I will not be running for re-election to the United States Senate, but what I will be doing is traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together.”
“To the West Virginians who have put their trust in me and fought side by side to make our state better ― it has been an honor of my life to serve you. Thank you,” he added.
Manchin’s surprise announcement is a huge blow to Democrats’ hopes of retaining control of the Senate, where they hold a slim 51-49 majority. Republicans are all but certain to flip his seat in a state that backed Donald Trump in the last two presidential elections. And they have decent odds of unseating other Democratic Senate incumbents who hail from red states, including Sherrod Brown in Ohio and Jon Tester in Montana.
“This officially makes us Mitch McConnell’s number one target,” Tester’s campaign warned in a fundraising email. “You can bet that every dollar national Republicans would have spent in West Virginia is now coming to Montana.”
Though he often voted with Democrats, including on judicial nominations, Manchin was a regular thorn in the side of President Joe Biden’s expansive domestic agenda. He dramatically reduced the size of Biden’s original health care and climate proposal and killed an expanded child tax credit that lifted millions of children out of poverty. What eventually passed, with Manchin’s blessing, was the more slimmed-down Inflation Reduction Act.
The conservative West Virginia Democrat also helped make sure some of Biden’s top executive nominees were never confirmed, including Julie Su, who is serving in an acting capacity as secretary of the Labor Department.
Still, as Manchin hinted in his statement on Thursday, he may not be completely finished with politics after his time in the Senate. He has flirted with leaving the Democratic Party to become an independent and even hinted at the possibility of a third-party presidential run.
“Our economy is not working for many Americans from the rising cost of food and fuel and everything in between,” Manchin said. “We have a border crisis with illegal drugs entering our country and killing Americans every day. Our national debt is out of control and Americans don’t feel safe in their own communities.”
“Public service has and continues to drive me every day,” he added. “That is the vow that I made to my father 40 years ago, and I intend to keep that vow until my dying day.”