Joe Manchin Mulls Leaving Senate To Run For Governor Again

West Virginia's Joe Manchin is reportedly mulling leaving the Senate to run once again for a job where he'd have the ability to actually accomplish something.

Joe Manchin

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin is talking again about running for his old job again rather than staying in the Senate:

Still frustrated by gridlock in Washington, Sen. Joe Manchin said he will decide by this summer whether he will return to West Virginia to run for a possible third term as governor in 2016.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Manchin, D-W.Va., again refused to commit to finishing his Senate term, which runs through 2018.

“I’ll make a decision by this summer, end of the spring,” he said.

For nearly a year, Manchin has said he is keeping his options open in regard to 2016.

“Senator Manchin loved being governor of West Virginia and has made no secret of his frustration with the partisan gridlock and dysfunction of Washington,” Manchin spokesman Jonathan Kott told the Gazette last April. “Senator Manchin is leaving all his options open for 2016 and will continue to look for the best way to bring common sense to Washington.”

The following month, in May 2014, Manchin told the AP he was keeping “all options open.”

Were he to run for governor, Manchin could either resign his Senate seat or keep the seat through the campaign and resign after the election, if he were to win.

Kott on Thursday said he didn’t know what Manchin would do about his Senate seat if he decided to run for governor.

“We haven’t discussed that at all,” he said. Since he won a special election in 2010, after the death of Democratic Sen. Robert C. Byrd, Manchin has served exclusively in divided government in Washington.

“I didn’t come here to sit on my hands,” Manchin told the AP. “The last four years are the most unproductive years of my working life.”

Manchin has been one of that small group of Senators on both sides of the aisle who has been willing to reach across party lines to try to get things done, so losing him would be unfortunate. At the same time, it’s not surprising that someone who came to the Senate from a Governorship would quickly become frustrated with an office that seems to involve more speech-making than actual legislating. Indeed, two years ago there were similar rumors abut another former Governor in the Senate, Virginia’s Mark Warner, who many Virginia Democrats were hoping would consider passing up a second term in Washington in favor of what would have likely been an easy run for Governor. Ultimately, Warner demurred on that chance and Democrats ended up picking up the Virginia’s Governor’s Mansion and holding on to Warner’s Senate seat, albeit narrowly. As with Manchin, though, the efforts to court Warner were prompted at least in part by the sense that Warner too was restless in a job that didn’t amount to getting much of anything done after spending four years in Richmond actually doing things.

No doubt, the current status quo of gridlock feeds into the frustrations that a former Governor like Manchin or Warner might be feeling in the Senate, but it strikes me that these frustrations would exist regardless of how active the Senate, or any legislative body, might be. By its very nature, being a Governor involves the ability to get things done and, most importantly, the power to do that. Even the least powerful Governor in the country has more power to actually do things than the most powerful U.S. Senator does, so it’s not surprising that a former Governor might find being a Senator, which mostly involves sitting in committee hearings and making speeches, to be less than satisfying. That being said, it’s probably the case that the key to fixing the problems in Washington is for people who actually know how to get things done, and how to reach across political aisles to do so, and there are few positions that better prepare people for that role than having been a Governor. While one can understand why Manchin might want to return to Charleston and a job where he can actually accomplish something, it would also be nice if he stayed where he was because right now the Senate can use all the help it can get.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. TheoNott says:

    The Democrats are going to have a very tough time defending this seat if he gives it up. In fact, I’d rate the odds of a pickup as greater than 50 percent.

  2. Trumwill says:

    To me, governor vs senator is a no-brainer for a politician. Except as a form of semi-retirement, I don’t know why anyone would give up the former for the latter.

  3. PD Shaw says:

    @Trumwill: less work? (Edit: I think you alluded to that point)

  4. James Joyner says:

    He should run for president instead. I think he’d be a formidable candidate.

  5. Tony W says:

    I see this as a cautionary tale – we are losing the few middle-ground Congressional moderates who have managed to get past the primary process. For every Manchin lost a Cruz (or Warren, for that matter) gains power.