When Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) said that a big announcement was coming today, many observers jumped to the conclusion that he was about to announce a campaign for governor of West Virginia or even a run for the presidency. The truth turned out to be much more underwhelming: Manchin is going to keep his old job as a US Senator.
There was speculation that Manchin, who had been a popular two-term Democratic governor, would seek to challenge Jim Justice, the current governor, who was elected as a Democrat in 2016 and then became a Republican. Manchin was first elected governor in 2004 and served until 2010 when he resigned after winning a special election to fill the seat of Robert Byrd, who had passed away.
Manchin was re-elected to the Senate in 2018. The election was close with Manchin defeating his Republican challenger by only three points in a year in which Democratic candidates experienced a blue wave. West Virginia has trended more and more Republican in recent years, however.
Manchin is the most conservative Democrat in the Senate according to GovTrack‘s analysis, which places him to the right of Republicans Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). FiveThirtyEight‘s Trump score indicates than Manchin has voted with Trump about half the time.
It is easy to understand Manchin’s decision to keep his old job. After a close election less than a year ago, most people would be hesitant to jump into another heated race. This is especially true in an election year that promises to be as turbulent as 2020.
Further, even though he has a somewhat conservative record, Manchin does have weak spots. He has a 40 percent rating from National Right to Life and a 57 percent rating from Planned Parenthood. This puts him in the middle which is not nearly pro-choice enough for the Democrats and not pro-life enough for Republicans. Manchin also has a D-rating from the NRA, which targeted him in 2018. Both would be a tough sell in West Virginia.