Former Obama White House senior political adviser David Axelrod says Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is “dead man walking” in West Virginia, where the senior senator finds himself far behind in the polls ahead of the 2024 election.
Axelrod on Monday said the dim outlook of Manchin’s reelection bid may lead him to instead run for president as a third-party candidate, which the senior Democratic strategist called “a graceful exit for him.”
“I don’t want to be unkind to Sen. Manchin, but he’s kind of dead man walking in West Virginia. There’s nowhere for him to go,” Axelrod said on CNN, referring to a new poll showing the three-term senator trailing West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) by 22 points.
“There’s nowhere for him to go. He’s got a popular Republican governor in the state that Donald Trump carried by almost 40 points. He didn’t win by very much last time. So he knows that he can’t win reelection in that state,” he said.
An East Carolina University poll of 957 registered West Virginia voters conducted May 22 and May 23 found Justice leading Manchin 54 percent to 32 percent in a hypothetical matchup, with 13 percent of voters undecided.
The poll, however, showed Manchin trailing Rep. Alex Mooney (W.Va.), another Republican candidate in the Senate race, by only 1 point — 41 percent to 40 percent, with 18 percent undecided.
Manchin says he won’t decide whether to run for reelection until the end of this year, and he isn’t ruling out a potential presidential bid.
Asked over the weekend whether a presidential bid is still possible, Manchin said, “You better have Plan B, because if Plan A shows we’re going to the far reaches of both sides, the far left and the far right…” referring to the unpopularity of President Biden and former President Trump, the leading Republican candidate for president.
Manchin declined to “include or exclude” himself as a possible third-party candidate.
He beat Republican candidate Patrick Morrisey in the 2018 Senate race, 49.6 percent to 46.3 percent.
Trump carried West Virginia by 42 points over Hillary Clinton in 2016 and then beat Biden by a similar margin in the state in 2020, 68.6 percent to 29.7 percent.
Manchin declared last month, “I will win any race I enter,” and said he is “laser focused on doing the job West Virginians elected me to do.”
He has suggested that while Justice, a former Democrat, is popular in West Virginia, he may have a hard time winning the Senate Republican nomination over Mooney.
“Let the games begin. It’s going to be a very entertaining primary on their side,” he said.