Manchin says he's keeping 2016 options open

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By Paul Nyden 
The Charleston Gazette

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Thursday that he’s keeping his political options open for 2016, even though his U.S. Senate term doesn’t end until two years after that.

The West Virginia Governor’s Office — as well as other state and national offices — will be open that year. Manchin served one term and part of a second term as governor before leaving for the Senate, and rumors have been circulating that he might consider another run in 2016.

On Thursday, a statement from Manchin’s communications director, Jonathan Kott, didn’t do anything to quash those rumors.

“Senator Manchin loved being governor of West Virginia, and has made no secret of his frustration with the partisan gridlock and dysfunction of Washington,” Kott said in the statement. “He is fully committed to his job as senator and fights every day to improve the lives of the people he is honored to represent.

“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,” Kott said.

Manchin was first elected to the Senate in a special election in November 2010, after the death of longtime Sen. Robert C. Byrd, also D-W.Va., earlier that year. As governor, Manchin appointed his legal adviser, Carte Goodwin, to temporarily hold the seat until the special election was held.

Manchin was re-elected to a full six-year term in the Senate in 2012. In both elections, he defeated Republican John Raese.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who, as state Senate president, automatically became acting governor when Manchin resigned, won a special election for the last year of Manchin’s term in 2011, and then was elected to a full four-year term in 2012. The West Virginia Constitution says that anyone “who has been elected or who has served as governor during all or any part of two consecutive terms” cannot serve as governor in the following term.

As a senator with little seniority, Manchin has gained some exposure on the national stage for his willingness to cross party lines, which has become rarer in the increasingly polarized Senate. He consistently has expressed interest in developing better communications and cooperation between Democratic and Republican members of the Senate.

A recent analysis of votes released by OpenCongress, part of the Sunlight Foundation, found that 41 of 51 Democratic senators listed voted with the Democratic majority at least 90 percent of the time. Manchin ranked at the bottom of that list, voting with the Democratic majority just 72.8 percent of the time.

“I am who I am. I don’t fit in anywhere,” Manchin told the Washington, D.C.-based Politico publication earlier this week. The article described him as “a key voice among pragmatic lawmakers who can control whether the next majority’s agenda [Democratic or Republican] will sink or swim in the final two years of Obama’s presidency — no matter who is in charge” in the Senate.

Manchin also has opposed some policies of the Obama administration. He repeatedly has criticized the administration’s policies toward the coal industry, and has been a vocal opponent of foreign interventions.