If, Then And One

It may be a bit like counting the chickens before they hatch, but at this point I still assume the Democrats will retain control of the Senate. A lot can change between now and Election Day but there is one thing I am certain of: if the Republicans should happen to gain control of the upper chamber (and I won’t rule that out completely) it won’t be by a 51-49 margin; or not for long anyway.

If the Republicans win the Senate in the fall, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin will switch parties from the Democrats to the Republicans. Probably in the transition period or just as the next session starts. The motivation is simple: retaining the Chairpersonship of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Other than reelection – and it very much dovetails – that is all he really cares about.

Manchin is the most closely philosophically aligned member of the Senate Democratic caucus to the Republicans. West Virginia is a solid red state, in fact, Manchin is about the only Democrat who currently can win statewide there. The jump would appear to be easy. Manchin’s seat is up in 2024 and he has made clear he intends to run for another term.

Entering into all this is the biggest nemesis in American politics: the role of money in politics. Manchin gets most of his considerable funding from energy interests. Sans the Committee that will plummet. Whether he runs as a Democrat or a Republican he will need money to win.

Politically the jump will not be as easy as it appears even in red West Virginia. Manchin will lose almost his entire campaign infrastructure and local political parties haven’t always embraced turncoats very warmly. The grassroots supply your door knockers and phone bankers. If you lack sufficient volunteers you have to buy those services.

Whether they are deluding themselves or not, I’m sure there are some big time West Virginia Republicans who want to take a shot at the Senate and wouldn’t be all that gracious (behind the scenes at least) in stepping aside to make room for a turncoat Joe Manchin.
Manchin has never been shy about spending money on TV ads and they aren’t cheap. This is another case where it is all about the money and in this case, it follows the Committee chairmanship. If the Republicans win the Senate, they will control it by a minimum of two seats.

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