Presidential speculation follows Manchin to No Labels New Hampshire event
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin is avoiding all labels for his political future, but a speech Monday at a public policy event in New Hampshire is stoking further speculation for a presidential run.
Manchin, D-W.Va., was the keynote speaker Monday evening for No Labels’ Common Sense Town Hall at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. Manchin was joined by Jon Huntsman Jr., a former governor of Utah, Republican presidential candidate and ambassador.
“I’m not here running for president tonight,” Manchin said. “I’m here basically trying to save the nation. I’m more concerned now than I’ve ever been concerned in my life.”
No Labels is a bipartisan political organization founded in 2010 to promote political moderates in both the Republican and Democratic parties. Manchin is the Democratic co-chair with Huntsman, the Republican co-chair.
The event was billed as an official roll-out of No Labels’ Common Sense policy booklet, but political observers have noted the timing and location of the town hall as the nation approaches another presidential election year with No Labels considering putting forward its own ticket.
Manchin has been spoken of among the political class as a possible No Labels presidential candidate, though he avoided saying outright Monday that he would be a presidential candidate next year.
“We need options,” Manchin said. “The options may be moving the parties, which have receded to their ideological extremes, right and left. That’s not who we are, that’s not where we come from, and it’s not the people we are.”
Earlier this year, No Labels launched what it calls “Insurance Policy 2024,” an effort to field a presidential ticket in 2024. While it balks at being called a third party movement, No Labels is considering nominating presidential and vice presidential candidates for a unity ticket, depending on who emerges as presidential candidates in the Republican and Democratic parties.
The group is already trying to raise $70 million for the effort, and it will decide whether to field its own ticket in March after the Super Tuesday primaries. When asked if Manchin and Huntsman would be the proposed unity ticket in 2024, Manchin deflected, stating that the goal of the No Labels Insurance Policy was to provide voters with a moderate choice instead of choosing from the two political extremes.
“I think people are putting the cart ahead of the horse,” Manchin said. “We’re here to make sure the American people have an option, and the option is can you move the political parties off their respective sides. They’ve gone too far right and too far left. … Either side can’t win without that independent: the center-left and the center-right, an independent Republican and an independent Democrat. If (voters) have another option, then both parties are in trouble.”
President Joe Biden has already announced his intention to seek a second term in office as the Democratic nominee after defeating President Donald Trump in 2020. Trump is the current frontrunner among a large field of Republican presidential candidates, setting up a possible rematch with Biden.
“The only element of American society that has not been transformed … is politics. It’s still the same-old, same-old,” Huntsman said. “If we end up in 2024 with the same nominees that we did in 2020, is that the definition of insanity or what?”
Huntsman, in addressing the 2024 election, noted national polling shows 67% of Americans don’t want to choose between Biden and Trump.
“The common-sense majority have no voice in this country,” Huntsman said. “They just watch the three-ring circus (in Washington) play out.”
No Labels is working on gaining ballot access in key states should it decide to field its unity ticket, though that effort is being challenged by opponents in both political parties that see the effort as a way to help the other side by taking votes away.
“We’re going to gain as part of our Insurance Policy ballot access,” said No Labels National Co-Chair Pat McCrory, a former Republican North Carolina governor. “We’ve got volunteers signing up people everywhere. Sadly, we have some operatives out of Washington, D.C., who want to just keep the status quo as it is and stop our efforts. … We will present a president and vice president candidate on a No Labels ticket … but only if we see an opportunity to win.”
Manchin, the former two-term governor of West Virginia, is in his second six-year term in the U.S. Senate and is up for re-election in 2024. However, Manchin has declined to announce his intentions to seek a third term, choosing to withhold a final decision until the end of the year.
While he has received criticism from the right for his support for the Inflation Reduction Act, Manchin has received criticism from the left for his support for the fossil fuel industry, permitting reform, and language in recently passed legislation authorizing completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
That project is paused in the courts pending an emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Manchin fielded a question from the audience regarding his support for the natural gas pipeline project and the overall effect of the fossil fuel industry on climate change.
“I believe in an all-of-the-above energy policy,” Manchin said. “This country cannot run unless we have an all-of-the-above energy policy. Basically, 65% to 70% of your energy comes today from fossil fuels. Can we use fossil cleanly? Yes, we have. We’ve cleaned up the environment more in the last two decades than anywhere else in the world. Most of all of your pollution right now, 90%, will be from Asia.”
Manchin, a lifelong member of the Democratic Party, has often taken heat for being a moderate and for working across the political aisle with Republicans. While unwilling to change his registration to Republican, Manchin said he would always remain closer to the political middle.
“I’m the most independent Democrat you’ve ever met,” Manchin said.
“He’s getting closer to the edge,” Huntsman said.