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Why Joe Manchin's answer on party switching may raise some eyebrows

CNN logo CNN 12/8/2021 Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
US Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) gets into a car as members of the press ask question, after he left the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on October 28, 2021. © Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images US Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) gets into a car as members of the press ask question, after he left the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on October 28, 2021.

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin sounds very much like a man without a country these days.

Asked about the possibility of a party switch this week, Manchin responded this way:

"I'm caught between the two, but the bottom line is you have to be caucusing somewhere. ... If they asked me to leave, well, I'll just have to say, 'I guess I'll have to abide by your wishes.' ... I don't intend to leave. But I intend to be honest."

Um, OK?

That's not exactly a ringing endorsement of him always staying in the Democratic Party, right?


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Now, Manchin has beaten back rumors of a potential party switch in the past, insisting he has never considered becoming a Republican but has contemplated becoming an independent who caucuses with Democrats a la Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine.

This latest statement may simply be him edging closer to that independent move -- or maybe just answering a question off the cuff with a little more candor than maybe he intended.

I've noted before that it makes very little sense, politically speaking, for Manchin to switch parties. And not even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (who would become Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell if Manchin switched to the GOP) thinks a Manchin switch is likely.

"Well, Sen. Manchin has pointed out over and over again he's been a Democrat all of his life," McConnell said in June. "I am certainly not anticipating that he's going to cross the aisle."

But the truth of the math in the Senate at the moment is this: Manchin can literally make or break the Democratic majority. Which means every little thing he says about a potential party switch is going to be parsed within an inch of its life. 

And things -- and people -- change! While I think a Manchin party switch (from D to R) is very unlikely, I also thought Donald Trump winning the presidency was very unlikely. So ...

The Point: Politics is a changeable business. Which makes saying something will forever be true is a mistake.

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