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Manchin seems to reject a party switch, but notes ‘I’m comfortable with my Republican friends’

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin could become a very influential person, depending on what happens next month.

Georgia voters in January must settle two Senate run-off elections, as both Republican incumbents – Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler – are on the ballot. Republicans are working feverishly to turn out the vote, despite criticism from President Donald Trump and other Republicans about the state’s election problems, to retain their majority. Democrats, however, want those seats just as badly because they would control the Senate, since Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would be the tie-breaker in an evenly split Senate.

Manchin, of West Virginia, is more moderate than most his fellow Democrats, and has ridiculed and rejected some of his party’s more radical ideas. If the Democrats prevail in Georgia, he could be poised to pull both sides toward the middle – something he has expressed a desire for in the public comments.

Appearing on MSNBC on Wednesday, Manchin rejected the suggestion he would switch parties if Perdue and Loeffler lose.

Host Stephanie Ruhle said influential GOP donors and lawmakers are quietly rationalizing a potential setback in Georgia by maintaining Manchin could be flipped.

Asked if there was truth in such speculation, Manchin replied, “That is breaking news. I’ve never heard that before! No, there’s not. Not at all.”

Yet Democrats likely could no take comfort in Manchin’s follow-up comments.

He continued: “These are my friends. I’m comfortable with my Republican friends. We go out, have dinner together. We talk. We have a good rapport. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. We can have differences and understand where we’re coming from. If you don’t know where your colleague is coming from, how do you find the middle? How do you find the compromise? How do you find the breaking point? That’s what I’ve been able to do.”

Manchin then added, “I am the most centrist voting member out of 535 members of Congress. I’m right in the middle. Fifty percent. If it makes sense, I vote for it, Stephanie. If I can’t go home to my beautiful home of West Virginia and explain it, it doesn’t make sense, I can’t sell it, I’m not voting for it.”

A switch by a high-profile senator like Manchin is not unprecedented.

Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican, was once a Democrat. He switched parties in 1994 after GOP candidates rode discontent with President Bill Clinton, as well as Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America,” to end a 40-year drought in having control of both the House and Senate.

Manchin, meanwhile, would be the most logical candidate for a party-swap.

He was re-elected in 2018 by just three percentage points in a state that Trump won by 42 points in 2016 and by 39 points this year.

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