As Arizona centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema leaves the Democratic Party to become an independent, several eyes are turning to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to see if he’ll do the same — possibly upending the balance of power in the Senate for the next Congress.
Over the last two years, Sinema and Manchin have held an outsize influence in the 50-50 Senate as Democrats have needed both their votes to advance their agenda. The pair have often acted as gatekeepers of sorts by using their votes to negotiate and boost their own priorities in exchange for support on a Democratic bill.
With Sinema’s grand exit from the party, many are beginning to question whether Manchin will follow her out the door — with several opining there’s little chance he’ll leave the party he’s represented for decades.
“Joe Manchin has served in elected office going back to 1982. That’s 40 years of running and winning as a member of the Democratic Party in West Virginia,” one Democratic strategist told Fox News. “The senator has been successful because of his personal brand and the trust he’s built with voters over four decades, not because of the party label next to his name.”
Manchin is especially not likely to abandon his party to join the GOP, other strategists told the outlet, despite his routine pushback to President Joe Biden’s agenda. Other prominent Republicans have weighed in on whether the West Virginia Democrat is poised to join their party, noting Manchin would “never” venture that far to the right.
“I’ve known Joe Manchin for a long time, he was my mentor governor when I got elected in 2009. He’s never going to be a Republican in my view,” former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told ABC. “He’s a different kind of Democrat than the Washington Democrats today, but he also showed that six years ago he’s a very formidable candidate as a Democrat in a state that Donald Trump won by 40 points.”
Sinema’s exit comes before both she and Manchin are up for reelection in 2024, with both senators considered to be particularly vulnerable and top targets for the GOP. Some lawmakers accused Sinema of leaving the party as a way to avoid a primary challenge, but Sinema rejected those criticisms.
Manchin has previously been rumored to be considering leaving the Democratic Party, with reports emerging last year that he would switch to the GOP due to frustrations with Biden’s budget reconciliation bill. The West Virginia Democrat later brushed those rumors off as “bulls***.”
“My guess is that Joe Manchin will just continue to be Joe Manchin,” Christie said. “And he thinks that if he wants to run for reelection that that’s going to be good enough for him to beat any Republican that we put up anyway. Depending on what the atmosphere is in 2024, we’ll see.”