We are told that there are two types of Republicans today: those who accept that Donald Trump is the leader of the party and those who are in denial. Well, if Trump is really the head of the party, there is an easy way for him to demonstrate it—by making one simple, magnanimous phone call to Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., and persuading him to flip the Senate to GOP control.
It is in Manchin’s interest to switch parties. He wants bipartisanship, but right now, he is under unrelenting pressure from Democrats to vote for their radical agenda. How many times has Manchin been asked if he is really, absolutely, 100% sure he would never vote to eliminate the filibuster? As a Republican, he would never be asked that question again. There would be no shock or outrage over his announcement that he will oppose the Democrats’ partisan election bill because if Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., were majority leader, that bill would never make it to the Senate floor. The same goes for D.C. statehood, court-packing and other far-left priorities that progressives are pushing Manchin to support. Once he switches parties, all that pressure disappears.
As a Republican, Manchin would still be the swing vote in the Senate but in a much stronger position to pursue bipartisanship. In return for switching parties, he could secure promises from McConnell to bring some of his key priorities to the Senate floor. With the left’s radical agenda off the table, he would be in a position to forge real compromise on issues he cares about, from infrastructure to energy. In contrast with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer’s iron-fisted control over his committee chairmen. McConnell gives Republican committee chairmen full authority to run their committees as they see fit. And Manchin could still cross the aisle and vote with Democrats whenever he chose to, just as Republicans such as Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) routinely do. He could remain a maverick, but a much more powerful one.
Manchin would also be more likely to win reelection as a Republican. Today, he is an anachronism—a Democrat in one of the reddest, most pro-Trump states in the union. In 2012, Manchin won by a comfortable 159,000 votes. In 2018, his margin was fewer than 20,000. This does not bode well for his prospects in 2024 as a Democrat. As a Republican, he could win in a landslide.
So what keeps Manchin in the Democratic fold? Simple. As a Democrat, he is assured his party’s Senate nomination. But if he becomes a Republican, he could face a primary challenger angry over his votes to convict Trump in his impeachment trials. Trump has made clear his intention to exact vengeance on any senator who voted for his removal. So, if Manchin defects, he faces the real prospect that Trump could support his primary opponent and deny him the nomination.
This is where the former president comes in: Trump could alleviate that concern with a single phone call. He could tell Manchin that if he switches parties and hands Senate control to the GOP, all will be forgiven—Trump would oppose any primary challengers and campaign enthusiastically for Manchin. By contrast, if Manchin runs as a Democrat, Trump would campaign against him, which could prove decisive in a state Trump won in 2020 by a nearly 70-to-30 margin. Trump could ask Manchin: Do you really think “sleepy Joe Biden” is going to help you win in West Virginia? Wouldn’t you rather have me endorsing you and my MAGA movement pulling for you rather than against you?
This is something that only Trump can do. McConnell can offer Manchin Senate perks and policy concessions, but he has no sway with the MAGA voters in West Virginia. Only Trump can clear the field for Manchin and persuade his loyal base to vote for him.
Will Trump do this? The conventional wisdom says no—that Trump is more concerned with personal loyalty than the fate of his party. But Trump can be magnanimous when he wants to be. Moreover, persuading Manchin to switch parties would also be an enormous demonstration of power. With a simple phone call, Trump could throw Schumer out of the majority leader’s office and render House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., powerless. Wouldn’t that be far more satisfying than working to defeat Manchin in 2024? And with Manchin as a Republican, Democrats could no longer enact radical legislation reversing Trump’s legacy on taxes, immigration, trade and energy, among other areas.
In other words, it is in Trump’s interest to bury the hatchet with Manchin. All he has to do is pick up the phone.