Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks during the Politics and Eggs...

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks during the Politics and Eggs event, Jan. 12, 2024, in Manchester, N.H. Manchin announced Friday, Feb. 16, that he is not running for president, according to his spokesman Jon Kott. Manchin is not running for reelection in 2024. His Senate seat in a heavily Republican state is expected to be a prime pickup opportunity for the GOP. Credit: AP/Charles Krupa

NEW YORK — West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced on Friday that he is not running for president, saying he didn't want to be a “spoiler.”

“I will not be seeking a third-party run," he said in a speech at West Virginia University. "I will not be involved in a presidential run. I will be involved in making sure that we secure a president that has the knowledge and has the passion and has the ability to bring this country together.”

The speech was billed as part of a national listening tour Manchin announced when he decided not to seek another Senate term. He told the Morgantown audience that he had no interest in being “a deal-breaker, if you will, a spoiler, whatever you want to call it.”

"I just don’t think it’s the right time.”

The centrist Democrat who often bucked his party's leadership had been considering a run for the presidency and had said he thought it would be clear by March if there was a path for a third-party candidate this year. He said in the speech that he thought a third-party bid might be viable at some point “but right now it’s really challenging.”

His decision comes as the leadership of No Labels, a national political movement that could offer an independent presidential ticket in 2024, has worked privately to identify serious candidates to represent the group in the general election. Manchin was viewed as one of the top prospects.

Manchin is not running for reelection in 2024. His Senate seat in a heavily Republican state is expected to be a prime pickup opportunity for the GOP.

Manchin, the only Democrat holding statewide office in West Virginia, has been at odds with members of his own party over his support for coal and other fossil fuels. With the Democrats holding a slim majority in the U.S. Senate, Manchin was a critical vote who wielded considerable influence to shape legislation and diluted much of President Joe Biden’s social spending plans.

In addition to the No Labels effort, a group pushing for Manchin to partner with retiring Utah Sen. Mitt Romney to seek a third-party presidential bid filed paperwork last year to form a draft committee with the Federal Election Commission. Romney and Manchin did not sign on to the effort.

After Manchin announced last year that he would not run for reelection, he said he planned to travel the country "to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together.”

He visited New Hampshire, an early voting state in the presidential primaries, in January. The senator is scheduled to speak in Arizona, a political battleground state, on Saturday.

After Manchin's announcement, No Labels issued a statement saying the organization welcomed the senator's efforts to strengthen “America’s commonsense majority.”

“No Labels is currently speaking with several exceptional leaders about serving on the presidential Unity ticket. We are continuing to make great progress on our ballot access efforts and will announce in the coming weeks whether we will offer our line to a Unity ticket,” said the co-chairs of No Labels, former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, former head of the NAACP Benjamin Chavis, Jr., and former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory.

Democratic Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips said last month that he would consider running on a No Labels ticket, though he is still challenging Biden in the Democratic primaries.

Another leading No Labels prospect, former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, last week ruled out a 2024 presidential bid as well, announcing a Senate bid instead.

Lieberman, a Democrat turned independent, said in January that Republican presidential candidate and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley would be a good fit for the group’s plans.

Haley, who is trailing former President Donald Trump in the GOP presidential race, has said she isn’t interested.

U.S. adults are uneasy about Trump and Biden as the two likely major-party candidates, according to an AP-NORC poll from December.

Biden reelection campaign spokesman Michael Tyler was asked on a conference call with reporters on Friday if there was frustration that Manchin didn’t endorse Biden when he announced he wasn’t running for president and if the pair had spoken. Tyler said he couldn’t “speak to any conversations with Senator Manchin right now” but praised him for helping to advance the president’s legislative agenda on issues like the sweeping infrastructure package, saying “the senator’s been an incredible partner.”

“Senator Manchin has been key in these efforts,” Tyler said. “The president looks forward to continuing to work with the senator.”

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