One Less Third-Party Worry for Democrats as Manchin Stands Down 

Andrew Cline /
Andrew Cline /

Team Biden can take one more name off their political hit list now that Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has officially declared that he wouldn’t challenge the President in a third-party bid. 

Joe Manchin never declared his intention to run as a third-party candidate in the 2024 presidential election. However, he sparked rumors of a possible bid by taking several steps that indicated his interest in challenging the two-party system. He announced that he would not seek another term in the Senate and would travel the country to gauge the public’s appetite for a movement that would mobilize the middle.  

He also aligned himself with No Labels, a centrist group that proposed a plan for a third-party ticket with candidates from both parties. He voiced his frustration with the partisan gridlock in Washington and his readiness to cooperate with moderate Republicans on critical issues. He even named potential partners for a third-party run, such as Mitt Romney or Rob Portman. 

And he told Fox News last fall, “Why not have options?” 

But the one thing Manchin stopped short of was declaring his intention to run.  

That didn’t keep Democrats from worrying that he might be a third-party contender and a potential spoiler to Biden. The worry was not without merit – Manchin had a 51% job approval rating in West Virginia in September 2023. He held only a 40% unfavorable rating nationwide among candidates in February 2024, which placed him well above Biden in the polls. 

It’s almost as if Manchin has spent a year trolling fellow Democrats for no reason other than to watch the world burn. 

Let’s not beat around the bush, though. Manchin would have run had he found the traction to do so. During his travels across America, it would appear that he never really found an audience for his brand of middle-of-the-road politics or voters willing to throw away a party vote for a third-party one.  

And in a way, it’s disappointing that he didn’t. 

Manchin was one of the few Democrats who held an appeal to Republican voters. He seemed to have a firmer grasp on President Joe Biden’s disastrous policies than anyone else on his side of the aisle and seldom hesitated to vote his conscience instead of his party line. 

He was the only Democrat not supporting the impeachment of former President Donald Trump in 2020. He also blocked the confirmation of one of President Joe Biden’s cabinet nominees, Neera Tanden, because of her controversial tweets. He opposed a bill that would expand voting rights and limit money in politics, saying he wanted more Republican cooperation for a bipartisan solution. In December 2021, he announced that he would not support the Build Back Better Act, a $1.75 trillion social spending and climate package that was a key part of President Joe Biden’s agenda. He cited concerns about inflation, debt, and policy design. 

Manchin went head to head with the dragon many times, whipping Nancy Pelosi into a denture-sucking frenzy on multiple occasions. She was frequently angry that he was not a consistent friend to Democrats and never hesitated to call him out for refusing to toe the party line. 

In December 2022, Pelosi and other Democrats denounced Manchin for trying to add his energy bill, which they claimed would harm the environment and favor fossil fuels, to a must-pass defense bill. In June 2021, Pelosi said she still hoped to work with Manchin on election reform after he rejected a bill that would allegedly “protect voting rights and limit money in politics.” She also criticized him for supporting the filibuster, a rule that makes it harder to pass legislation in the Senate.  

Manchin was less of a progressive Democrat and more of your grandfather’s style of Democrat. He represented a moderate, common-sense party that became irrelevant during Biden’s term. Manchin made Republicans and Democrats nostalgic for a simpler time when politics was as easy as protecting the country, passing budgets, and caring for Americans. No matter what side politicians were on, they were on the American people’s side first. 

Small wonder that Democrats feared he would siphon votes from Biden in 2024. He was one of the third-party candidates, albeit an unofficial one, that had the power to do so. Now that he has officially decided to watch the upcoming election from the sidelines, Democrats can breathe a sigh of relief. 

The most significant remaining non-Trump threat to Biden is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the environmental lawyer from California. He has polled as high as 20% in a three-way matchup with Trump and Biden. Although he seems to be all-in for his third-party bid, only time will tell if he can withstand the nasty games Democrats play with their opponents.