AMAC Exclusive – By Barry Casselman
It is purely a hypothetical scenario now, but a very dramatic political party switch that could happen makes a lot of sense for two U.S. Senators facing uphill battles to win their re-election in 2024.
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both part of the current narrow Democrat majority (51 to 49) in the U.S. Senate, have been notable mavericks in Congress, often refusing to go along with the Biden administration and the pleadings of Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in trying to pass legislation.
Senator Sinema, in fact, has already declared herself an independent, although she is still caucusing with the Democrat majority.
Both Manchin and Sinema, however, are facing re-election in 2024, and are easily the two most vulnerable incumbents. They appear now to have dim prospects at the polls twenty-one months ahead.
Manchin, a once popular West Virginia governor, then senator, has watched his once blue state turn very red as Democrat energy policies turned against the state’s key coal mining industry and the liberal party abandoned its working class base. Manchin is now the only major elected state Democrat left, and to survive has had to oppose many left-wing proposals from the White House and his fellow Senate Democrats. At the end of the previous Congress, Manchin agreed to support the misleadingly named Inflation Reduction Act in exchange for what he thought were promised concessions on issues that would benefit West Virginia energy interests. The bill had been severely criticized by conservatives, who pointed out that the bill was ultimately inflationary. His vote upset a lot of West Virginians, and then Manchin’s Senate colleagues reneged on their promises — making Manchin seem ineffective.
Although Manchin would not be seriously challenged for renomination, the most formidable Republicans in the state, including GOP Governor Jim Justice, are lining up to run against him. If Joe Biden or another anti-coal Democrat is on the 2024 ticket, Senator Manchin would face a very tough re-election.
Sinema has so antagonized her own party in Arizona that Democrat Congressman Ruben Gallego has already indicated he will challenge her. Polls suggest he would easily win the Democrat primary against her. Polls also indicate that she would come in third if she ran in November 2024 as an Independent, and that the Republican nominee would win.
But Sinema, like Manchin, has an alternative political route to win re-election.
Sinema and Manchin could announce, either together or separately, that they are switching to the Republican Party now, making the GOP minority leader the new majority leader. They would need to demonstrate their new bona fides by voting consistently to block radical Democrat legislation and the appointment of liberal or leftist federal judges. They would also need to support the Republican nominee for president in 2024. This dramatic double shift would not guarantee that either of them would automatically win their GOP primaries, but it would be hard to defeat them. With their new party nomination, they would almost be unbeatable in November 2024 when Republicans would be likely to expand their control of the U.S. Senate, and both of them would be on committees as members of the majority.
Although this would be a momentous move on their part, their alternative is probable defeat at worst, or empty roles in a probable minority at best.
Sinema may have no realistic other choice for political survival; Manchin could run as a Democrat for governor (popular incumbent Jim Justice is term-limited), but his diminished standing with state voters, now overwhelmingly Republican, makes that option less appealing.
The scenario above is admittedly speculative, but since politicians, especially those already holding elective office, rarely act deliberately against their own self-interest and political survival, do not be surprised if it actually happens.