Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia on Wednesday wouldn’t rule out a departure from the Democratic Party, saying he’s never considered himself “a Washington Democrat” as he weighs a potential presidential run.
“I’ve never considered myself a Washington Democrat. I’ve been a very independent person,” Manchin told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins when asked whether he’d leave the party.
Pressed by Collins on whether he was considering ditching the “D” by his name, Manchin – who is not running for reelection next year – responded: “Sure, you always consider that, absolutely,” adding that “they might throw me out so, who knows, they might do me a favor. I don’t know, we’ll see.”
Manchin’s announcement last week that he would not seek another term in the deeply red state came as a blow for Democrats hoping to hold onto a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate.
Manchin said that while he has received a “nice note” from Democratic President Joe Biden since his announcement, the two men haven’t spoken about the decision. “He’s been traveling quite a bit,” Manchin said, adding, “I’m sure we’ll be talking.”
Manchin, a moderate Democrat, has found himself at odds with members of his party throughout his congressional tenure. While he helped Biden notch some key legislative wins in the first half of his presidency, the senator has also been an outspoken Biden critic – especially on issues of the environment, energy and the economy.
“No matter what [letter] I have by me, I’m an independent thinking, I vote independently and I have always done that for 40 years,” Manchin told Collins.
In his announcement last week, the senator criticized the political “extremes” in Washington, arguing the “growing divide between Democrats and Republicans is paralyzing Congress and worsening our nation’s problems.” He made clear, however, that he would not be retiring from politics altogether.
In July, Manchin stoked speculation of a third-party presidential campaign during remarks at a forum held by the centrist group No Labels at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire.
Asked Wednesday whether his jumping into the 2024 presidential race could help former President Donald Trump, the GOP front-runner, win, Manchin told Collins, “I’m not going to be a spoiler. I’m not looking for any spoilers.”
Manchin wouldn’t say whether a third-party run could tarnish his legacy, instead he reiterated his mission to “resurrect” the political middle.
“The Democrat and Republican business machine is gonna make their determination, what they’re going to do, and you’ll have both of them playing to the extremes,” he said.
Manchin has long refused to say whether he will back Biden for reelection and he held that line Wednesday – though he also stopped short of suggesting that Biden shouldn’t be vying for a second term.
“He’s not the person we thought was getting elected, being a centrist and moderate,” Manchin said. “He’s been pushed so far to the left.”
Asked whether Biden could beat Trump in a head-to-head race, Manchin demurred. “It looks very challenging right now. I’m gonna wait and see where we have, who we have, in this,” he told Collins.
Another Trump presidency, however, would be a threat to the country, the senator said.
“I think we lose democracy as we know it” if Trump wins a second term, Manchin told Collins, “because he has no regard whatsoever for the rule of law.”
“You have Donald Trump basically normalizing the attacks on human beings every day. You know, anybody that doesn’t agree with him, he’s after. And I’ve said this, the country would be in a horrible situation challenging our democracy if he got reelected,” Manchin said.
“And I’ve said this very clearly. He believes that truly … the only fair election is the one he wins. He believes that the law only applies to everybody but him and he attacks anybody that doesn’t agree with him.”
CNN’s Manu Raju, Morgan Rimmer and Lauren Fox contributed to this report.