Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said Thursday he will not run for reelection in 2024 — but signaled he was not leaving politics entirely.
“I have made one of the toughest decisions of my life and decided that I will not be running for reelection to the United States Senate,” Manchin said in a video posted on X.
“But what I will be doing is traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together,” he said.
The announcement strikes a major blow to Democrats who saw Manchin, a centrist incumbent in a deep-red state, as crucial to their hopes of keeping their narrow Senate majority past the 2024 election cycle.
Manchin’s commitment to staying active in politics, meanwhile, fuels further speculation that he could be considering a presidential run.
“Nothing is off the table,” a source with direct knowledge of Manchin’s plans told NBC News when asked if Manchin is considering a White House bid.
Republicans saw Manchin as the only real obstacle to taking control of the key Senate seat.
“We like our odds in West Virginia,” National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Steve Daines told NBC in a statement following Manchin’s announcement.
But a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee told NBC later Thursday that Democrats have “multiple pathways to protect and strengthen our Senate majority and are in a strong position to achieve this goal.”
In an interview Thursday morning on CNBC, Manchin made the case that the presidential field is still open.
“The people haven’t been able to speak yet,” he said. “The parties, basically the Democratic and Republican parties, might be set on where they’re going, and who they think is going to be the representative, but the people haven’t spoken up yet.”
Some recent polls of West Virginia voters, however, showed Manchin trailing the state’s Republican governor, Jim Justice, by hefty margins.
“Senator Joe Manchin and I have not always agreed on policy and politics, but we’re both lifelong West Virginians who love this state beyond belief, and I respect and thank him for his many years of public service,” Justice said in a statement later Thursday.
Justice instantly became a top contender when he entered the Senate race in April, flanked by his ubiquitous English bulldog, Babydog. Rep. Alex Mooney is also running in the state’s Republican Senate primary.
Manchin has long deflected questions about whether he would seek another term, tacitly acknowledging that the race would be an uphill climb. The Democratic senator, whose state voted overwhelmingly for former President Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020, has also embraced his role as one of his own party’s most vocal critics.
Manchin angered many in his party last year when he refused to vote for a measure to lift the Senate’s 60-vote threshold. More recently, Manchin railed against climate-related measures in President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, the sweeping spending bill that Manchin helped write and pass.
His Republican Senate colleagues were quick to praise him after his announcement.
“I will miss this American patriot in the Senate,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said of Manchin. “But our friendship and our commitment to American values will not end.”
“Thank you Joe and Gayle for your years of service,” said GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, the junior senator from West Virginia. “And as you said, we still have much work ahead of us.”