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Forecast: Will Manchin run for president?

Published 6 months ago • 2 min read

Welcome to Nonrival, the newsletter where readers make predictions about business, tech, and politics.

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In this issue

  • Forecast: Will Joe Manchin register to run for president before Jan. 28?
  • (Make a forecast with one click at the bottom of this email.)

Joe Manchin for president?

Joe Manchin likes to dither while the whole world watches.

Democrats courted Manchin for months in 2022 to get the Inflation Reduction Act passed. Now the West Virginia Democrat says he won’t run for another Senate term and instead will be “traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together.”

That comment fueled speculation that he’s considering a third-party run for president.

Is there precedent for a sitting Senator mounting a third-party presidential bid? Not really. Former House members have run (most recently in 1972), as have former governors and one former VP. But never a sitting Senator.

Ross Douthat recently summed up the logic of such a bid:

“When elites pine for a third-party candidate, they usually imagine someone like Michael Bloomberg, a fiscal conservative and social liberal. But the sweet spot for a third-party candidate has always been slightly left of center on economics and moderate to conservative on cultural issues — and that describes Manchin better than it does most American politicians.”

However, there are reasons to be skeptical.

First, the US electoral system stacks the deck against third-party candidates. “That winner-takes-all nature [of the US system] encourages broad coalitions to form before elections,” wrote political scientist Amanda Skuldt in 2016. To succeed, a third party candidate needs one of the political parties to collapse.

Second, Democrats are worried that a Manchin run would pull votes from Biden and could deliver a second Trump presidency—and so are likely to do anything they can to convince him not to run.

Third, Robert Kennedy Jr. and Jill Stein are already committed to third-party bids and might complicate Manchin’s attempt to quickly consolidate support among those who are equally tired of the two main parties.

Douthat is urging Manchin to just jump in anyway—with the knowledge that a campaign can always be suspended later on:

“It’s entirely possible to begin an independent candidacy and then suspend it… if the situation looks entirely unpropitious. Which is what I’d advise Manchin to consider.”

For now, Axios reports that “Some Manchin confidants expect him to tour the country and flirt with a White House bid for a few months. For now, they aren't convinced he'll actually pull the trigger, according to people familiar with the matter.”

If that is the baseline scenario, what might convince Manchin to dive in?

  • The “No Labels” group could score some big donation or report some poll that improves his chances
  • Another major figure could offer to run alongside him (Romney? Oprah?)
  • Biden could suffer some publicly reported health issue
  • Trump could be convicted of one or more crimes but remain the likely Republican nominee

To make the timing work for Season 2, this week’s question asks whether Manchin will register to run by Jan. 28, 2024. But remember what we learned from the IRA negotiations: He doesn't mind taking his time deciding.

Forecast

Will Joe Manchin register to run for president before Jan. 28?

​Very likely (~90% chance)

Likely (~70%)

Uncertain (~50%)

Unlikely (~30%)

Very unlikely (~10%)

Bonus trivia: What is the name of Joe Manchin’s DC houseboat?

  • “Almost Heaven”
  • “Purple Wave”
  • “One Man, One Float”

(Make a forecast by clicking a link above and you'll get to answer this trivia question.)

Just want to make a quick forecast? Click a link above and you're done! Your forecast will be recorded.

Or, click a link and then complete the survey. You can provide your reasoning and end with a bit of trivia.

Deadline: Make a forecast by 9am ET Tues. Nov. 14.

Resolution criteria: This question will resolve based on whether Manchin registers with the FEC before Jan. 28. A public announcement that he intends not to run will lead this question to resolve No.

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