Joe Manchin for president?

Rumor has it that Sen. Joe Manchin — West Virginia’s lone congressional Democrat — might run for president instead of seeking reelection to his Senate seat next fall.

But the question is: President of what?

President of the United States, running on the third-party No Labels ticket?

Or president of West Virginia University, giving up political office for an administrative position in academia?

Who knows?

Maybe not even Manchin. All he’ll say is that no matter what he pursues, he will — in his words — win.

It seems the senator is having fun playing noncommittal. It keeps his colleagues and potential opponents on their toes and his name in the headlines, which is essentially free publicity.

His constituents, however, are less amused.

There’s already a mad scramble among the Republicans for Manchin’s Senate seat. If he’s planning on pursuing a different office (or no office at all), Manchin needs to say so sooner rather than later. The Federal Election Commission has Manchin’s statement of candidacy on file from June 2022, but Manchin has not publicly confirmed his run for Senate and has instead stoked rumors with his vague comments.

Very few (if any) West Virginia Democrats want to primary the sitting senator; Manchin owes it to the state and his party to give plenty of notice if he’s stepping aside, so candidates can file for the May primary, which is only seven months out (and the filing deadline is Jan. 27, 2024). And there’s only a little more than a year from the general election.

That may seem like a long time to an ordinary person, but that’s the blink of an eye in politics. Especially when it takes so much time and money to get a campaign off the ground and rolling. Any Democratic politician who seeks to fill Manchin’s spot needs all the time she or he can get in order to connect with potential constituents across the state ahead of the elections.

Manchin’s coyness is neither clever nor cute. It’s a disservice to the West Virginians he represents. He needs to make up his mind, then let everyone know what he’s decided.