Democrat Joe Manchin will not run for governor of West Virginia

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There had been growing speculation recently that Democrat West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin would mount a gubernatorial run in 2020 to reclaim the position he held from 2005 to 2010, prior to his service in the U.S. Senate.

But Manchin just put an end to those rumors by decisively declaring on Tuesday that he will not be running for governor in the next election and will instead remain in the Senate, where he believes he can still do the most good for his state.

No plans

Politico reported that Manchin announced his decision not to run after first seemingly floating the idea of a run himself in April when he said that previously serving as governor had been the “best job in the world” and signaled how he would be honored to assume the mantle as the state’s leader once more.

“When considering whether to run for governor, I couldn’t focus just on which job I enjoyed the most, but on where I could be the most effective for the Mountain State,” Manchin said in a statement on Tuesday.

Noting his role in the Senate as the top Democrat on both the Appropriations Committee and Energy Committee, the senator said, “I get to set policy. I get to make sure that West Virginia is not left out.”

One of few

Interestingly, Manchin would not have been required to resign his Senate seat in order to run for governor again, and had he run and been elected in 2020, he would have been provided the unique opportunity to appoint his own replacement to serve the remainder of his current term until 2022, when the seat would be open.

That particular circumstance would quite likely only temporarily keep Manchin’s Senate seat in Democratic hands, however, as the state has trended red of late, and a Republican challenger would have a good chance at winning the seat in the next election. Indeed, when Manchin most recently ran for re-election in 2018, he barely survived a strong challenge from Republican state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who lost by only three points.

As such, national Democrats are probably pleased that Manchin decided to forego a gubernatorial bid and remain in the Senate where he can keep the seat in the Democratic caucus for the time being, even as Manchin’s moderate centrism and his quest for bipartisanship has declined in popularity among the increasingly far-left party base.

“There’s nobody trying to find the middle. Everybody is going for the sides, if you will, for the extremes,” Manchin recently told reporters of his centrist tendencies. “It’s not how you get things done.”

The specter of Trump looms large

Politico noted that had Manchin chosen to run for governor in West Virginia in 2020, he stood a pretty good chance at unseating Republican Gov. Jim Justice. Readers may recall that Justice was initially a Republican, but switched to become Democrat prior to his 2016 run — and even received Manchin’s support in that run — only to switch back to being a Republican after President Donald Trump took office.

Recent polling in the state showed that Manchin would defeat Justice in a hypothetical matchup by a significant margin. However, considering that Trump would also be on the ballot in 2020, and bearing in mind that Trump won the state by a margin of 42 points in 2016, Manchin’s success in a gubernatorial run was far from certain.

As for Manchin’s decision to remain in the Senate and how that relates to President Trump, the senator said in his statement, “As I have done since coming to Washington, I will work with the president to accomplish what best serves our state and our country and I will speak truth to power when I don’t agree with the path the President has chosen to take — that is what West Virginians elected me to do!”

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