MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — After more than a decade as a U.S. Senator for West Virginia, Joe Manchin (D) announced on Thursday that he will not run for re-election in 2024, which impacts politics across the country.
Reporter Gwyn Napier sat down with the Director of Policy Research and Public Affairs from West Virginia University Samuel Workman to learn more about how the change will impact politics in the state and beyond.
Q: What does it mean for Democrats holding major offices in West Virginia now that Senator Manchin is not going to rerun?
A: Well, what it most directly means is that Democrats are not going to hold major statewide offices in West Virginia. Manchin is sort of the end of an era at the last of the statewide folks to sort of hold off for the Democrats. But I think more broadly the other thing is it makes the path to retaining control of the Senate very difficult for national Democrats as well. They needed Manchin to keep that seat. He’s obviously not going to, and there’s not really a candidate aside from him with the name recognition and political acumen that can win that seat. So I fully expect the governor and Representative Mooney to have a battle over the seat.
Q: So what does it mean nationally?
A: Well, nationally Democrats are defending more seats than Republicans and need to now pick off some Republicans to be able to hold the U.S. Senate. That’s not impossible, but it’s very unlikely that they will do so. It probably means Republican control of the Senate and for national energy policy it means that in Manchin’s chair on the Energy Committee in the Senate, we will now have a Republican overseeing many of the projects, funding and initiatives that have been spawned over the last two, three years from the built back better plan and the IRA, which passed last summer.
Q: What is the balance of power in the Senate now?
A: It’s a nice edge. So the Democrats control the Senate only because they have a 50/50 split, which allows the vice president to cast the deciding vote—of course Kamala Harris—and side with the Democrats. Of course that will no longer be the case in all likelihood, again, it’s not impossible, but in all likelihood, the Republicans will command a majority, the vice president will no longer be able to vote and so democratic initiatives in the Senate will stall.
Q: Manchin said that he’s not running again on the idea of uniting the middle. Do you think this leaves him running as a third-party candidate in the future?
A; Well, I think anyone who to know what Joe Manchin is going to do is probably fibbing. He’s certainly hinting at a run and probably gauging support for that right now. And we do know there is a large percentage of disaffected Americans in the middle that don’t, don’t really look kindly at either party. And so there is some impetus for that. I will say though, that historically speaking and in terms of the way our elections work institutionally, it’s very unlikely for a third-party candidate to actually make it through in a general and win the presidency.
Q: What does this mean for West Virginia’s ability to get federal funding from the Senate?
A: Well, remember that Senator Manchin’s style of politics is not a different universe than Senator Capito’s dimension of politics. So Manchin was a moderate of course, and I fully expect Senator Capito—she’s moved up the ranks in the Republican party—she will now be our senior senator and the state largely for projects economic development and further funding initiatives and federal initiatives in the state will need to look to Senator Capito at this point. It does though, anytime you replace a senator of the skill of Manchin, it does hurt the standing of the state more broadly. Governor Justice or Representative Mooney will take that position and of course, it’ll take them time to sort of work their way up the ranks and be able to sort of really spearhead the types of initiatives we’ve saw from Manchin and Capito actually over the last two to three years.
Q: After leaving such a big legacy as a Senator in West Virginia, what do you think Manchin will do in the future?
A: Well again, it’s very difficult to say what Manchin will do in the future. As far as his legacy, he’s one of the most agile able politicians that the state has ever witnessed. He is also probably the last of the pragmatists—those willing to cut deals that divert from the normal thrust of both parties on either side. He’s the last of those really in the U.S. Senate, and as part of his legacy, he’s easily the most important figure in Biden’s first term as a presidency, we don’t get any of this we legislation that we’re currently dealing with without Senator Manchin. And I would add, and this slips under the radar far too often, Manchin has confirmed an inordinate amount of judges to the federal bench, so his legacy will carry on there as well. So a real luminary in West Virginia politics lost this week.