Centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) kept speculation alive about him running for president in 2024 as a third-party candidate, telling reporters Tuesday “I don’t like the direction we’re going” and declining to rule out a bid for higher office.
Manchin has criticized Democratic leaders for refusing to negotiate with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) over a package of fiscal reforms to attach to legislation raising the debt limit and has repeatedly voiced frustration over the lack of progress in Washington on energy permitting reform and addressing the nation’s $31 trillion debt.
“I don’t know what the next chapter will be, I don’t know [where] the future lies, I really don’t,” Manchin said when asked if he would run for president next year during a question-and-answer session hosted by Semafor’s Steve Clemons.
“I can tell you one thing: I feel, like most Americans, we’ve got to come together. Americans want to be united, they want to be together and right now we’re going further apart,” he said.
He predicted that voters are going to be looking for “somebody” to bring the country together but didn’t say whether he would be the politician to do that as the next president.
“I’m not saying I have any aspirations” to run for the White House, he said, adding a caveat: “I’ve been [in Washington] 12 years. I don’t like what I see; I don’t the direction we’re going and I’m going to work and commit myself to try to get people who want to do the right thing to find the pathway forward, bringing the country back together.”
Manchin’s comments seem to indicate that he doesn’t think President Biden has delivered on his 2020 campaign promise to bring the nation together after four divisive years under former President Trump supercharged partisanship in American politics.
Biden promised to unify the country in his 2020 campaign victory speech, declaring “it’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature” and “to stop treating our opponents as enemies.”
Biden is expected to again call for national unity at his second State of the Union address on Tuesday.
Manchin recently said Biden was making a “mistake” by refusing to negotiate with House Republicans on fiscal reforms to attach to debt limit legislation.
“It’s unreasonable for any senator, any congressperson representing the United States government to say, ‘I’m not going to negotiate,’” he told reporters on Capitol Hill. “If you can’t communicate and you won’t talk to each other, you got a problem.”
Manchin emphasized Tuesday that he thinks “the world of President Biden, he’s been a friend for a long, long time.”
But he said the Biden administration is working against the president’s calls for moderation and bipartisan cooperation.
“What you say and what you do are two different things,” he said. “You can’t tell me you’re going to do something and then you have all your agencies and everything else doing something different, interpreting it different.
“You can’t say we want to bring the prices of gasoline down — that means you got to produce more product, more oil in the market and we’re not doing it,” he added. “And then you have the oil companies saying, ‘We’re not basically going to invest under this type of oversight and restraint.’”
Manchin told NBC’s “Meet the Press” in an interview last month that “everything’s on the table” when asked whether he would run for president or another Senate term under a different party affiliation.
“I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that when I make my decision, I make it based on what’s best … for my country and my state.”
Manchin hasn’t yet said whether he plans to run next year for reelection to a fourth Senate term, though he has ruled out running for governor of West Virginia, a job he previously held.