A Manchin-Huntsman ticket?

The question now is whether Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is thinking along the same lines as an Associated Press reporter in New York City.

Earlier this month, Manchin and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a Republican, spoke during an event at a hotel in the Big Apple. Manchin and Huntsman “heaped praise on each other in an appearance that almost looked like the makings of a presidential ticket,” wrote the AP reporter.

Well, now. There’s a thought.

It’s one Manchin has laughed off, at least in public, in the past. He just wants to continue serving his beloved state, the former governor insists.

But that could be accomplished quite well from the Oval Office.

While Manchin and Huntsman were governors, they worked well together despite being of different political parties. That friendship may have helped lead to the No Labels movement they unveiled in New York. They were joined by more than 1,000 people, including some members of Congress, governors and mayors.

The idea behind No Labels is to get party affiliations out of the way of doing the right thing for the American people. Too often, Manchin and Huntsman agree, disputes in Washington occur simply because leaders of one of the two major parties dig in their heels on ideology without being willing to compromise. No Labels is sort of a political version of the late Rodney King’s “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Manchin’s political pragmatism has served him well among Mountain State residents, much as the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s conservative Democrat policy got him re-elected term after term.

It’s true some Democrat leaders don’t like Manchin because they don’t consider him liberal enough. Some Republicans think he’s not conservative enough. But Mountain State voters are sold on him, and that’s all that matters.

What about Manchin as a candidate for president? That might be a tough sell for Democrat Party leaders who, because of the power wielded by President Barack Obama, tend to be more liberal these days.

But in politics, the perception of a candidate’s ability to win is everything. Consider how Manchin might do in early indicator states such as New Hampshire and Iowa. My guess is he’d be very popular among voters.

How about potential campaign donors? In a primary, some special interest group leaders would shun Manchin. But those involved with conservative causes would embrace him, as would many business people.

Why business people? Because they understand the bottom line. While he was governor, Manchin did an excellent job of working with legislators to pay down the state’s unfunded liabilities and, in a few cases, reduce taxes.

If it can be done in one of the nation’s poorer states, why not in Washington?

There’s still plenty of time for Manchin to explore the idea before deciding for or against running for president. Reception of his No Labels campaign among both voters and Democrat and Republican leaders will tell him a lot. My guess is his ideas – members of Congress should work at the Capitol five days a week, deficit spending has to be curbed, Americans should be risking their lives in the military only in well-defined missions, etc. – will sell very well in many regions of the country.

How will he do in the big cities, which decide national elections? He’ll have to determine that, too. Any questions about why he and Huntsman picked New York City to unveil No Labels?

Both Byrd and our other current senator, Democrat Jay Rockefeller, considered throwing their hats in the presidential ring in the past. Both decided against it. Why should Manchin break with the pattern?

Because in four years, Obama’s brand of expensive socialism will be seen by many voters as a failure for them personally. A charismatic Manchin, with a record of fiscal discipline, could be appealing in 2016.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mike Myer is executive editor of The Intelligencer and the Wheeling News-Register. He can be reached via e-mail at myer@theintelligencer.net