Joe Manchin isn’t a candidate 5 months before the election. But he still has time to change his mind

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Every election cycle, it seems, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia tries to find the best fit for himself, dragging both sides of the political aisle — and an entire home-state electorate — along for a wobbly ride.

Five months before the general election, he’s still not a declared candidate for any office, but he’s hitched up the guessing-game wagon one more time. And there’s still time, albeit shrinking, to mull potential runs for governor, the Senate or even the U.S. presidency.

After recently switching his party affiliation from Democrat to independent, the 76-year-old Manchin is content to leave the Senate in January “and be able to hold a more normal life, if you will.”

But in true Manchin fashion, he leaves the gate open just a crack.

“Never say never, because you never know,” he said.

The rutted path he’s chosen, while not necessarily surprising, leaves voters who haven’t lost interest altogether once again trying to figure out where Manchin is headed. One who has tried to keep up, retired West Virginia Wesleyan political history professor Robert Rupp, brings his own metaphor to the discussion.

“This is a whirling dervish,” Rupp said.

Career-changing moves for Manchin have come in bunches lately.

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