Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) sent his party into a paroxysm of fear July 17 as he stumped for the third party No Labels in New Hampshire. Ramping up speculation that he might make a run for the White House in 2024, the West Virginian lawmaker appeared all too comfortable following the “unity ticket” script headlined at the event. But he is not the only potential contender who could derail the expected Donald Trump-Joe Biden rematch, and the electoral math suggests the collision is going to hurt only one side.
Who’s on First?
Manchin is almost certainly the highest-profile figure on the third-party radar – despite not actually announcing. He faces a political choice in 2024: run again for his Senate seat or aim for the top spot. Perhaps, though, this choice is not as free as he would hope, with polling trends out of West Virginia putting the lawmaker in a tricky situation.
In April 2022, the senator was posting a 57-point approval rating – up 17% on 2021, with much of the new support coming from Republicans and independents (although, as Morning Consult noted, his Democrat base was beginning to drop). He was riding high on his reputation for stymieing President Biden’s more excessive Build Back Better plans. And yet, with the entry into the Senate race of Jim Justice, the Democrat-turned-Republican governor of West Virginia, re-election for Manchin appears a steep hill to climb. Justice has a higher approval rating than Manchin, and polling from May suggested he has a 22-point lead.
Where else is a soon-to-be jobless senator to turn but 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? A White House bid, however, may not be such a safe harbor. No Labels has made it clear that it does not seek to be a presidential spoiler. Founder Joe Lieberman – a former Democrat senator – says his outfit is looking to create a unity ticket, but only if it has a chance of winning. Essentially, Manchin could commit and then have the apparatus around him swiftly removed, especially if it looks like Biden might be suffering.
Lieberman, for all his talk of moving away from the duopoly of DC politics, is firmly against any notion of populism. As Liberty Nation’s Joe Schaeffer recently noted:
“Lieberman endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016 and stumped for her on the campaign trail. He endorsed Biden in 2020. So, what is his idea of going ‘Republican’? He endorsed Swamp stalwart and fellow foreign policy interventionist John McCain over Barack Obama in 2008. In 2020, he backed Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who is routinely labeled a RINO by GOP conservatives irked by her voting record.”
Would he tank his own organization to keep a MAGA candidate out of office?
Don’t Forget the Greens
Philosopher, scholar, and activist Cornel West is chasing the Green Party nomination in what Democrat organizers are calling a “risky business.” The outspoken leftist appears to have more ire for the sitting president than the former and has recently accused Biden of contributing to a “crime against humanity” with his sponsorship of the 1994 Crime Bill.
West acted as a surrogate for Bernie Sanders during the Vermont senator’s 2016 and 2020 presidential bids. There are a lot of Democrats still “feeling the Bern” after their champion was sidelined by establishment forces and who may be open to a prominent figure on the left willing to teach their party a harsh lesson. An Emerson College poll signified that West could pick up a potential 6%, most of which is from Biden. “When West is added to the ballot test, he pulls 15% of support from Black voters, and 13% from voters under 35, two key voting blocs for President Biden,” the report noted.
The Third-Party Historical Perspective
A March memo from Democrat think tank Third Way highlighted that a No Labels bid would most likely re-elect Trump. It noted, “In 2020, Biden won six of the seven states where the margin was three points or less. Even a paltry third-party performance would put 79 Biden electoral votes at risk (GA, AZ, WI, PA, NV, and MI).” Should West get anywhere near the projected six points with his Green Party bid or the eventual No Labels candidate achieve something similar, the reality is that Biden would feel the pain.
Progressive author Michael Bassey Johnson wrote on the topic of outside interference between a husband and wife: “A third party in your marriage will do three things to you: Seduce your spouse, wreck your home and take your place.” Such a warning could apply equally well to Biden and his 2024 hopes.
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