MORGANTOWN – Sen. Joe Manchin talked with West Virginia reporters on Wednesday about his political goals, following last week’s announcement that he’s not seeking reelection to the Senate.
He didn’t provide specifics, but expanded somewhat on his statement last week that he will be “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.”
Asked Wednesday if he wants to be president, he said, “I don’t have a burning desire to be president of the United States. I have an unbelievable burning desire to save the nation. If they said, ‘You’re the only person that can do it,’ I’ll do whatever I can to save this nation.”
But there are other people and movements that need to get mobilized, because the major parties have weaponized us against each other, he said.
Third party candidates are often regarded as spoilers, but Manchin preferred to think in terms of members of both major parties who don’t care for the extreme divisions dominating today’s politics. “I’m not going to be anybody’s spoiler. … I know so many good people and I’m going to work with all of them.”
Before talking about and fielding questions on what’s ahead, Manchin again reflected on what got him to this point, and his centrist ways in the state Capitol and the US. Capitol.
“I never thought I’d worked for anybody. I’ve always worked with you,” he said. But Washington moved leftward. “In the Obama years, it felt like there was a war against us.” West Virginians weren’t regarded as good or green or smart enough, he added.
People would ask, “What happened to the West Virginia Democrats,” and he would ask, “What happened to the Washington Democrats? … I didn’t fall in the middle; I’ve been in the middle all my life. Everything fell apart all around me.”
Turning to the why, he said, “I thought I’ve done about everything I can do,” to serve the state and address the political dysfunction. “It can’t be done here in Washington.” It’s big business for the Republicans and the Democrats, he said, and nothing will change “unless there’s a push from the radical middle.”
He wants to find out if there is a radical middle that will move beyond the seeming inevitable Trump vs. Biden matchup next November.
“I think if Donald Trump is reelected he will destroy democracy in America,” as he runs a campaign of insults and pledges vengeance against his enemies if he returns to the White House, Manchin said.
Biden, meanwhile, was elected claiming to be a centrist but has served the far left, he added, predicting, “He won’t be able to repeat because that’s not where this country is.”
So, Manchin said, “Where do we go? I don’t know if there’s a middle. We’ll find out” if there are people willing to vote and if there are good candidates out there.
Asked to talk more about Biden’s leftward shift, Manchin reviewed his opposition to Biden’s more radical green policies, his own authorship of the Inflation Reduction Act that has spurred a resurgence in fossil fuel production unacknowledged by Biden, and Biden’s pushing his leftward agenda through agency actions in order to bypass Congress.
Manchin didn’t specifically say what he’ll do on his listening tour. “Everything from A to Z and all the soup to nuts in between. The only thing I’m running for is to save this nation.”
Asked about his strategy, Manchin said he’s looking at policy not politics. We won’t know who the candidates are until Super Tuesday, and the parties may not want Trump vs. Biden, but the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee pull the strings, Manchin said.
For the rest, “if they’re satisfied with what they have, there’s no movement.”
Whoever runs from the middle needs a team behind them with the same beliefs, he said. And they need a proven record. There are a lot of good, sharp people who could do the job, Manchin noted.
“I’m not going out there running. I’m going out there with a mission to bring Americans together.”
He has a 501(c)(4) to support Ds and Rs with that philosophy and the experience to prove it, he said.
“You’re not going to change the parties unless you can move them back toward where they came from.”