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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) arrives for a Senate briefing at the U.S. Capitol on February 15, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia on Wednesday wouldn’t rule out leaving the Democratic Party, saying he has never considered himself a “Washington Democrat” as he weighs a potential run for president.
“I’ve never considered myself a Washington Democrat. I was a very independent person,” Manchin told CNN’s Caitlan Collins when asked if he would leave the party.
Pressed by Collins on whether he was considering dropping the “D” from his name, Manchin — who is not running for re-election next year — replied, “Of course, you always think that, absolutely,” adding that “I might get kicked out, so, who knows, they might do me a favor. I do not know we will see.”
Manchin’s announcement last week that he would not seek re-election in the deep red state came as a blow to Democrats who hope to hold on to a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate.
Manchin said that while he received a “nice note” from Democratic President Joe Biden after his announcement, the two men had not spoken about the decision. “He’s traveled quite a bit,” Manchin said, adding, “I’m sure we’ll talk.”
Manchin, a moderate Democrat, has found himself at odds with members of his own party throughout his term in Congress. While he helped Biden achieve some key legislative victories in the first half of his presidency, the senator has also been an outspoken critic of Biden — particularly on environmental, energy and economic issues.
“It does not matter what [letter] I stand by myself, I’m an independent thinker, I vote independently, and I’ve always done that for 40 years,” Manchin told Collins.
In his message last week, the senator criticized the political “extremes” in Washington, arguing that “the growing divide between Democrats and Republicans is paralyzing Congress and exacerbating our nation’s problems.” However, he made it clear that he would not retire from politics completely.
In July, Manchin sparked speculation about a third-party presidential campaign during remarks at a forum organized by the centrist group No Labels at the College of St. Anselm in New Hampshire.
Asked Wednesday if his inclusion in the 2024 presidential race could help former President Donald Trump, the GOP frontrunner, win, Manchin told Collins: “I’m not going to be a spoiler. I’m not looking for any spoilers.”
Manchin did not say whether a third-party bid could tarnish his legacy, instead reiterating his mission to “resurrect” the political environment.
“The business machine of the Democrats and the Republicans will decide what they’re going to do, and you’re going to have both play to the extremes,” he said.
Manchin has long refused to say whether he would endorse Biden for re-election, and he stood by that line Wednesday — though he also stopped short of suggesting that Biden should not seek a second term.
“He’s not the guy we thought would be elected because he’s a centrist and a moderate,” Manchin said. “He was pushed so far to the left.”
Asked if Biden could beat Trump in a race, Manchin demurred. “It looks very challenging at the moment. I’ll wait and see where we have, who we have in it,” he told Collins.
However, a new Trump presidency 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 for the rule of law.”
“You have Donald Trump normalizing attacks on human beings every day. You know, anyone who disagrees with him, he persecutes. And I said this, the country is going to be in a terrible situation challenging our democracy if he is reelected,” Manchin said.
“And I made that very clear. He believes that really… the only fair elections are the ones he won. He believes that the law only applies to everyone but him and attacks anyone who disagrees with him.
CNN Manu RajuMorgan Rimmer and Lauren Fox contributed to this report.