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Manchin registering as independent in West Virginia

Sen. Joe Manchin is registering as an independent, according to a person familiar with the matter — a move that is sure to stoke speculation he could run for Senate or governor without a party affiliation this fall.
A longtime Democrat, Manchin’s decision comes ahead of a deadline for filing as an independent in West Virginia. He’ll have several more weeks to decide whether to run for his Senate seat or mount a bid for his old job as governor.

The move is no guarantee he will run for either office, however.

Manchin previously announced he would not run for reelection, a move that essentially ceded his seat to Republicans. But Democrats have held out hope he’d make a last-minute decision to run as an independent, and Friday’s move is sure to increase pressure on him to do so. Gov. Jim Justice, a Manchin rival, won the GOP primary and is heavily favored in November.

State Republicans are divided after a fierce primary in the governor’s race, which Attorney General Patrick Morrisey won. Manchin defeated Morrisey in the 2018 Senate race. Manchin is friends with the Democratic nominee Steve Williams, but he would likely be a more viable general election candidate.

Manchin will be the fourth independent in the Democratic Caucus and has long flirted with leaving a party he thinks is far too liberal. In recent interviews, he’s said his biggest fear is a future Senate that weakens the filibuster, a move he opposed last Congress.

West Virginia is one of the most conservative states in the nation, so either bid would be challenging for Manchin. But running as an independent would be easier than running as a Democrat in the deep-red state. And Manchin is a talented retail politician who has won both offices in the past.

Manchin likes to stay in the mix both nationally and regionally and may ultimately decide against running for anything. He turned down an independent presidential bid, for example, after considering one for months.

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