Hoppy Kercheval, Opinion

Joe Manchin moves on

In the end, Joe Manchin made up his mind quickly. The West Virginia senator is notorious for overthinking decisions and shifting views. That can frustrate those closest to him, but it also allowed him to consider all possibilities.

It was that attribute that made him the ultimate deal maker. His driving life force is to always believe he could get all sides together to work out a compromise. It is a healthy approach to effective governance, and it is also out of sync with the times, unfortunately.

Manchin had already said he would not run for re-election to the Senate, and he had spent recent months considering a third-party presidential run. He said he would make up his mind after Super Tuesday Primary Elections in 16 states on March 5, but instead he announced his decision last Friday. He is not running for president.

“In the long game, maybe we can make a third party viable when it has the process and opportunity, but right now it is very, very challenging and I am not going to be a deal breaker, a spoiler, whatever you want to call it. I just don’t think it’s the right time,” Manchin said.

Manchin, the deal maker, did not want to be the deal breaker, the guy who would get the blame by the losing side in the 2024 presidential election. It is more likely he would take votes from Joe Biden and the last thing Manchin wanted to do was help Donald Trump get elected.

But also, the No Labels effort, which Manchin has been strongly linked to, appears more sizzle than steak. Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan recently resigned as co-chair and the organization has struggled to gain ballot access.

A third-party run was always going to be a long shot.

I suspect Manchin also had more personal reasons for not running.

Manchin turns 77 in August, and while he wears his age well, he would still be entering a contest where the age of the leading candidates is an issue. The question that Manchin had to ask himself was whether at this stage in his life, he wanted to continue — and even add to — the daily political fight.

The national political arena is toxic and exhausting. At some point even Joe Manchin reaches a point where he has had enough. Politics has been Manchin’s life since he was first elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1982 and he may be thinking about all the other rewarding non-political aspects of his life that he has missed.

His wife, Gayle, was in a serious accident a few weeks ago when a vehicle eluding police slammed into the rear passenger side of the car in which she was riding, sending her to the hospital. Had that racing vehicle struck her car a fraction of a second sooner, she would have been injured much more seriously.

Those are the moments that make one take stock of what is most important in life. It is quite possible that Manchin wants to spend more time with his family. The cable channels will likely be calling him to weigh in on the issues of the day. He says he still wants to continue advocating for the political middle through the Americas Together organization, which is run by daughter, Heather Manchin. And maybe he will just go fishing more, which he loves to do.

It is hard to imagine Manchin just fading away. His history suggests he will remain busy and involved. Many politicians cannot give up the power and prestige of the office, leaving them to either lose an election or die in office. Neither is an appealing option.

After a lifetime in politics, Joe Manchin can chart his own future.

Hoppy Kercheval is a MetroNews anchor and the longtime host of “Talkline.” Contact him at hoppy.kercheval@wvradio.com.