Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
Updated: Thu, 21 Oct 2021 14:46:46 GMT
A report on Wednesday suggested that West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin told associates that he "is considering leaving the Democratic Party if President Joe Biden and Democrats on Capitol Hill do not agree to his demand to cut the size of the social infrastructure bill from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion."
Manchin quickly shot the idea down.
"It's bulls--t," he told CNN's Manu Raju. "I have no control of rumors."
Manchin told CNN's Ali Zaslav on Thursday that he never considered switching parties, but he acknowledged that that he had given some thought to becoming an independent who caucuses with Democrats a la Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine.
"If I'm an embarrassment to my Democratic colleagues, my caucus, the President."
Added Manchin: "No one accepted that."
Which is the right take for Manchin! Because it makes zero sense for Manchin to switch from the Democratic to Republican Party!
Start here: Manchin has, repeatedly, proven that he can get elected as a Democrat in West Virginia despite the state's clear Republican lean. In 2018, a very bad year for Democrats nationally, Manchin still managed to hold his seat in the state -- albeit with 50% -- against a much-touted Republican candidate. Six years earlier, Manchin won with 61% even while Obama was losing the state to Mitt Romney by 26 points.
There's no reason to believe then that Manchin MUST switch parties if he wants to have a chance for a third full term in 2024.
Now consider Manchin's current position within the Democratic Party. Sure, some liberals -- like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez -- bang on him for his opposition to, say, the broad effort to reform voting rights in the country or a $3.5 trillion social safety net proposal.
But, in the main, he is in a position of complete power. He has a direct line to Biden. Biden's trial balloon of a spending package in the $1.75 trillion to $1.9 trillion range is much, much closer to the $1.5 trillion proposed by Manchin than the $3.5 trillion (or higher) price tag pushed by the likes of Ocasio-Cortez and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. The climate provisions being pushed by the Biden administration may well wind up on the cutting-room floor to placate Manchin's fossil-fuel sensibilities.
He would be in the party out of power in the White House through at least 2024. That fact would drastically reduce his ability to influence legislation coming out of the White House -- especially if Democrats wound up winning back the Senate in the 2022 elections. (If Manchin switched parties, Republicans would hold a single seat majority.)
Manchin would also join the small ranks of (relatively) moderate senators that includes Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah. And, he would undoubtedly become -- as those senators have become -- a major target for former President Donald Trump in his unending quest to root out all RINOs (Republican In Name Only) from the Republican Party.
Circling back to the politics of a Manchin party switch, earning the ire of Trump for not being, well, Trump-y enough could endanger Manchin when 2024 comes around. Presuming Trump runs again for president that year -- and every sign suggests he will -- there will be a major surge of Trump voters in Republican primaries across the country. If Trump decided to turn on Manchin and endorse a primary challenger to the incumbent, there's the very real possibility that Manchin could be in trouble.
In short: Switching parties is WAY more trouble than it's worth for Joe Manchin. If he has ever considered it, he should stop. Immediately.