WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Joe Manchin used a weekend Washington roast to tease a potential third-party run for the White House, joking that the nation could use someone slightly younger than the leading contenders.
Speaking Saturday night during the Gridiron Club’s winter dinner, Manchin said the country could benefit from a younger leader than President Joe Biden or the 2024 GOP frontrunner, former President Donald Trump.
"With all due respect, the president is 81 years old. Donald Trump is 77," said Machin, a West Virginia Democrat who announced last month he would not run for reelection in 2024. “I truly believe the American people are ready to pass the torch to a new generation, somebody younger. I’d say maybe someone close to 76 that doesn't look a day over 70.”
The retiring lawmaker is 76.
Manchin previously indicated he could potentially launch a run for the White House, saying in an NBC “Meet the Press” interview in November that he would “absolutely” consider a run for president. Some Democrats have expressed concern that a run by the centrist Manchin as an independent could cut into Biden's support and pave the way for Trump winning a second term in the White House.
The annual dinner in Washington of the Gridiron Club and Foundation, which traces its history to 1885, features songs and speeches from Democrats, Republicans and journalists that are expected to “singe” but “not burn” the capital’s political elite.
In his remarks, Manchin also poked fun at the notion he could be a spoiler if he decides to run.
“I’ve heard it all. You all heard it all,” Manchin said. “Most of you probably told me. They say that my running would throw the election to Trump. Others say my running might help Biden. Hell, I’m trying to find out how it would help me.”
Manchin also used humor to offer a defense of the political organization No Labels, a group with which Manchin has long ties and is weighing running a third-party slate for the White House. Supporters of Manchin and another retiring senator, Republican Mitt Romney of Utah, have launched an effort to encourage the pair to seek the No Labels' nomination.
“You'd think that No Labels is the cause of every problem that we have in Washington," Manchin said. “How did you end up with so many classified documents in Mar-a-Lago? It was No Labels.”
Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina offered the Republican response at the dinner.