Manchin says he’s ‘not running for any office’ after decision to leave Democratic Party

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said Monday he’s “not running for any office” after registering as an independent over the Memorial Day recess, but he didn’t completely rule out the possibility.

“I’m not running for any office, political office. I’ve been very clear about that,” the senator told CNN’s Manu Raju, insisting that his decision to become an independent had nothing to do with running for Senate or governor ahead of the August 1 filing deadline.

But pressed on whether he was closing the door on a future run, he added, “I have not – I never leave any, you never leave any political opportunity and walk away from that, so you always have options, because life is full of surprises. But I have no intention of running for political office.”

Manchin, whose announcement last year that he wasn’t seeking reelection was a political gift to Republicans hoping to flip the Senate, noted that he had informed President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of his decision to leave the party before he did so.

The retiring senator said that he decided to become an independent now so he could “have time under [his] belt” with the label before he leaves the Senate, noting that having the letter “D” by his name had become “toxic” in his home state, which President Donald Trump carried by nearly 40 points in 2020.

“It’s hard to go back home with the brands being so toxic as they are. My state’s flipped so much as it has, even having a D brand — knowing that Joe is just Joe Manchin from West Virginia, they don’t look at me as a Democrat or a Republican — but on that, by having a D brand, they still label you and it makes it a little bit more challenging to get through,” he said.

“I’ve been thinking and planning this for a long time. I thought the time was right, now as I’m going to transition into private life, I wanted to make sure I could be an honest broker. And say ‘Oh, he just did it because you’re moving into something else.’ No, I did it while I’m still a senator.”

Manchin said it would be easier for him to focus on his post-Senate goals as an independent, like empowering the middle of the political spectrum.

“Let’s open up some of these primaries in these states, let people have better candidates to choose from. We’re getting kind of a controlled movement to where the primaries are controlled to the point that when you get to the general election, you’re choices aren’t what you might want, whether they be on the national level from president all the way down,” he argued.

Manchin, who still plans to caucus with Democrats in the Senate, said his colleagues were only “surprised it took this long,” and that the president “understood” why he was making this choice.

“I explained the dynamics of my state and the people I represent do not connect today with the Democratic Party and especially the policies of the National Democrat Party,” he said.

The senator said he’s still not prepared to say if he’ll support Biden in November and that he’s hoping he can push the president more toward the political center.

“I haven’t gotten involved in the presidential election to this point. There will be a time, there’s plenty of time,” he said. “Right now I want to see, I want to see the Joe Biden I’ve known for 37 years come back to where the Joe Biden had started from: always in the center, center-left, maybe, but always in the center to make a deal. I think he’s been pulled too far by his staff to the far left. And I’m hoping and praying I can push him back.”

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