According to a forthcoming book by two New York Times reporters, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) in February 2021 told a group of three Republican senators that he would become an independent and caucus with the GOP if Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) were their leader in the Senate.
Asked about the excerpt from This Will Not Pass by Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns, Manchin on Thursday claimed his remark was being made out to be something it wasn’t. Many Republicans like to get on his case about why he continues to stay a Democrat, he said, claiming that he didn’t seriously consider switching parties. “I get that question every day. These are all my friends,” Manchin said, per The Hill, when asked if he’d go to the other side of the aisle if Thune took Sen. Mitch McConnell’s place. “John Thune is a most decent human being and a good friend of mine. But no.”
Thune, one of the three Republicans at that dinner, told reporters on Thursday that Manchin made the comment in “good humor,” according to CNN.
In early 2021, R senators tried to take advantage of Harris angering Manchin after her W.V. TV hit. Susan Collins, Thune and Portman urged Manchin to join GOP. Manchin said he wasn’t going to switch. And said to Thune: If you were leader, I’d do it. From @jmartNYT @alexburnsNYT: pic.twitter.com/ryyeD3TK0Z
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) April 28, 2022
“They are always kidding back and forth. They would love for me — I said, ‘Guys listen, I am who I am, I’m a West Virginia Democrat,'” Manchin added: “If people want to read into whatever conversations we have, they can read into it. But they all know who I am.”
Talk of Manchin switching parties may have been all in good fun, but it’s not surprising considering the degree to which Manchin has stymied Democrats’ push for voting rights protections, taxing the rich, and a landmark social spending bill; his allegiance to the fossil fuel industry; and the fact that billionaire Republican benefactors love him. He hobnobbed with a bunch of them last month at a Palm Beach fundraiser hosted by Trump donor Nelson Peltz.
“Joe is the most important guy in D.C. Maybe the most important guy in America today,” Peltz told CNBC last year. “I call him every week and say, ‘Joe, you’re doing great. Stay tough. Stay tough, buddy.’ He’s phenomenal.”
Manchin hasn’t formally announced whether he is running for reelection, but one attendee at that $5,000-per-plate fundraiser said the senator is planning on it. He’ll probably have a good chance of winning, too. The 12-year senator saw the largest approval rating increase — 16 percent — of any of his 99 colleagues over the past year, according to a Morning Consult survey.