In Manchin’s first interview sinceto the U.S. Senate, “CBS Evening News” anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell asked Manchin for his timeline for a decision on whether he’ll run for president.
“Only in America does the next election start the day after the last election, most countries don’t have election a year ahead of time,” Manchin responded. “And we think…, ‘Oh my goodness. It’s — it’s now or never.’ I think there’s plenty of time, plenty of time. And especially if there’s a movement in the middle, there’s not a primary. It’ll be basically in the general election process.”
When O’Donnell asked directly if he’ll run for president, Manchin insisted it’s “not about me.”
Running as an independent would mean avoiding the major parties’ primary process, which is underway now. Manchin announced last week that he wouldn’t seek reelection in his deeply red state of West Virginia, saying instead he plans to travel the country and speak out “to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle.” His decision all but guarantees his seat will flip Republican in 2024, and fueled questions about the possibility that he might run for higher office.
O’Donnell asked Manchin to address the concern from some that if he ran on a third-party ticket, he would be helping elect Trump.
“I don’t buy that scenario,” Manchin replied. “I’ve heard that. And — and I wouldn’t buy that scenario because if you look back in history, how things have played out, I don’t think they thought Ross Perot would elect Bill Clinton. … We see …some polls with Bobby Kennedy Jr. — would be helping … Joe Biden because [he] takes votes from Donald Trump.”
“I’ve never been a spoiler in anything,” Manchin continued. “I’ve never tried to. I compete the best I possibly can. I compete to win, okay. And I’m gonna work right now to try to win the middle back.”
Manchin has for years been involved with No Labels, a centrist organization that is exploring an alternative “unity” presidential candidate in 2024. Manchin said the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee have too much control of the processes.
The senator didn’t directly answer whether he would consider joining a ticket with someone like his friend, Republican Sen., who also announced his retirement this year. The two men, both outliers in their parties in many respects, formed a close bond in the Senate.
“The only thing that I would consider is how do I make my country better? How do we bring it together? And we just have to see where that goes,” Manchin said.
O’Donnell pointed out that didn’t sound like a “no.”
“I don’t know how to tell you,” Manchin said. “I — the movement has to be there where people have to realize how serious a situation we’re in.”
Asked if he and Romney have discussed whether an independent candidate would end up helping elect Trump, Manchin responded, “Well, you can’t help but talk about it because that’s all you hear about in the press.”
Like Romney in the Republican Party, the West Virginia Democrat no longer feels entirely at home in the Democratic Party.
“I feel politically homeless,” he said.
“I’m a Democrat,” Manchin also said during the interview. “I’m … an American first. I’m an American. I’m an independent, I think. I don’t know what I am. I can tell you this. I feel comfortable working with both sides.”
Manchin, who said he won’t vote for Trump, isn’t completely sold on the current president either. O’Donnell asked if he thinks President Biden deserves a second term.
“I think that people make those choices,” Manchin replied. “I can’t make that choice.”