It Makes No Sense for Joe Manchin to Run as a Third Party Candidate in 2024

Jeremy Fassler
4 min readJul 13, 2023
Photograph courtesy of AP

This month, Joe Manchin will appear at an event in New Hampshire sponsored by No Labels, a bipartisan organization who aim to nominate and run a centrist presidential candidate next year provided they get nationwide ballot access. Manchin has not explicitly stated whether he will run for President next year — the most he’s said is that he hasn’t ruled it out — but this is not the first time he’s raised eyebrows over this. Last May, he paid a visit to Iowa, saying that “if enough Americans believe there is an option, and the option is a threat to the extreme left and extreme right, [a No Labels campaign] will be the greatest contribution to democracy.”

If Manchin merely tipped his hand in May, by going to New Hampshire he’s laying his cards on the table for a third-party run. But the lack of positive upsides for him if he does run makes it hard to square his ambitions with what we know of his character.

Historian Richard Hofstadter wrote that third parties are like bees: once they sting, they die. No Labels could hardly find a more dangerous stinger than Joe Manchin, whose barb resembles that of a hornet’s more than a honeybee’s. As the most conservative Democrat in a tenuous 51–49 majority, Manchin relishes his status as the man who can make or break the Democrats’ agenda. In 2021, he prevented President Biden’s Build Back Better Plan from passing the Senate and ended the American Rescue Plan’s popular child tax credit. In 2022, he was the sole Senate Democrat to vote against codifying federal abortion rights, preventing its enactment. On the other hand, he co-authored the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, which included many provisions from Build Back Better, so sometimes he brings home the honey.

One might say Manchin has no choice but to act so conservatively, as his home state of West Virginia has experienced one of the most rapid political transformations in the country since the millennium. Though a solidly blue state throughout much of the 20th century, West Virginia has turned rock red due to the decline of its number one export, coal. In 2000, then-Governor George W. Bush became the fourth Republican since FDR to win the state, in large part due to his backing from the West Virginia Coal Association…

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Jeremy Fassler

Correspondent, The Capitol Forum. Bylines: The New York Times, The Atlantic, Mother Jones, etc. Co-author of The Deadwood Bible with Matt Zoller Seitz.