February 07, 2021

Just how much leverage does Joe Manchin actually have?
Generally considered the most moderate Democrat in the 50-50 Senate, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) appears to have a significant amount of power in the upper chamber. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) has jokingly referred to him as "your highness," while Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), per Politico, simply called him "the man." Manchin, for his part, plays it down, suggesting to Politico that his colleagues "just kid around ... I didn't lobby for this position, I didn't pick it." Still, he may wind up playing an outsized legislative role in the coming years. But what about when he's up for re-election in 2024? In a piece for National Review, Kevin Williamson makes the case that Manchin is not a "king-maker," and is actually quite vulnerable. On the one hand, Williamson writes, he's a Democrat in a Republican state that overwhelmingly backed former President Donald Trump, which means the GOP will likely view his seat as winnable in 2024. Democrats, meanwhile, could turn on Manchin if he joins Republicans in opposition to major pieces of Democratic legislation, potentially setting up a "bruising primary challenge." Williamson, therefore, thinks Manchin should actually switch parties now. In doing so, he would increase his shot at keeping his seat and, with his interest in "energy, national-security issues, and a more activist health-care policy," he "could provide a few bridges between a few important factional divides in the GOP." The unconventional idea certainly has some critics, both because other analysts believe Manchin does indeed have a lot more leverage than Williamson is giving him credit for, and because they think his political agenda isn't congruent with the GOP. Read more at National Review and Politico.

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