A Conversation With Joe Manchin’s Former Right Hand, Scott Sears

How seriously is Manchin considering a presidential run?

Senator Joe Manchin, during a hearing in Washington, D.C., May 2, 2023.
Sen. Joe Manchin during a hearing in Washington, D.C., on May 2, 2023. Photo: Tom Brenner/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., says he’s leaving his options open when asked about a presidential run. No Labels, a centrist political organization, is looking to run a split ticket between one Republican and one Democrat. Manchin is considered the likeliest candidate and has dropped increasing hints that he is considering it. This week on Deconstructed, Daniel Boguslaw, politics reporter at The Intercept, interviews Manchin’s former political operative and right-hand man, Scott Sears, about the senator’s career and political ambitions. Sears helped Manchin secure political wins across the state before switching parties and throwing it all in for Donald Trump.

[Deconstructed theme music.]

Daniel Boguslaw: Welcome to Deconstructed. I’m Daniel Boguslaw, sitting in for Ryan Grim this week. Two years ago, I began reporting on one of the most powerful politicians in American History, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.

Joe Manchin [on CNN]: We need pipelines. We need fossil fuel

JM [on Fox Business]: You have to have energy independence to be energy secure to be the superpower of the world. … Right now the administration has always been pushing further left than I can ever get. 

DB: When I started that project, I was still a freelancer. I was shocked at how much power Joe Manchin had amassed, as Democrats’ critical 51st vote in the Senate, and how little reporting there was about who this guy is, where he came from, and what sustained his political career in what is now a deep red state.

My reporting began with a months-long investigation into the private coal companies that made Manchin a fortune while simultaneously poisoning the air and water of West Virginia. During my reporting in West Virginia, from Morgantown in the north, down to Charleston and back to D.C., one man has provided invaluable insight into Manchin’s life story. I first met him at a Jimmy Buffet-styled restaurant, sandwiched between a golf course and a West Virginia freeway.

For years, Scott Sears served as one of Manchin’s top lieutenants, overseeing campaigns, fundraising, and helping to mastermind his political strategy across the state. After becoming disaffected with the West Virginia Democratic Party he once worked for, throwing all in for Trump, and having a falling out with Manchin over coal dealings, Sears picked up the phone when I called him two years ago. We’ve continued to talk since then.

[Phone rings.]

Scott Sears: Hello. 

DB: Scott, what’s going on? It’s Dan. 

SS: Hey, what’s up, buddy? 

DB: Not much. Just wanted to see if you’re ready to try to do this 2.0.

SS: 2.0. Let’s, let’s do it.

DB: Manchin did not respond to The Intercept’s request for comment. In this week’s Deconstructed, I talked to Scott to get the rundown on Joe Manchin’s rise, from carpet salesman to Senate kingmaker, and now potential presidential candidate.

Shannon Bream [Fox News]: The No Labels Political Group continues to fund and organize. They’re trying to get in all 50 states. They want to be on the ballot to run a third party ticket. [The] New York Times says that’s got Democrats very upset and worried it’s going to re-elect President Trump. And they say this, “At the top of the list of potential candidates is Senator Joe Manchin III, the conservative West Virginia Democrat who has been a headache to his party and can bleed support from President Biden in areas crucial to his reelection.”

DB: In June, Manchin was asked about a potential presidential run on Fox News.

SB: I always ask you, you have not ruled it off and have not taken it off the table, is a third-party run still in the realm of possibilities?

JM: Shannon, No Labels has been moving and pushing very hard the centrist middle, making common sense decisions. People that basically expect us to do our job and not put the political party ahead of the policy in our great country that’s what we’ve seen happening. And there’s more noise and more extremism coming from the far left and far right. 

DB: With Manchin refusing to say whether or not he’ll run for president in 2024, Scott agreed to go on the record for the first time. The years he spent working with Manchin in West Virginia — where Scott used to be a leader in the Democratic Party — gives him a deep familiarity with Manchin’s political maneuvering.

SS: Joe just basically knows how to work his way in with whomever.

DB: In our conversation, Scott details the perils a Manchin presidential bid could pose for Joe Biden’s reelection. Having worked on Manchin’s campaigns for political office for over a decade, Scott sees the senator’s recent moves — like a trip he took to West Virginia with Bill Gates — as signals that he’s gearing up for something much bigger.

SS: Bill Gates coming to West Virginia here a few months ago to talk about this battery plant — 

DB: Right. 

SS: — And being an investor in it, that’s a good example. And here you have pretty much the richest guy in the world worth $125 billion. Joe Manchin, when he sees those numbers, he will find a way because he was always taught — and we’ve always, we joked about this quite a bit — that Joe always lived off of other people’s money. I mean, that’s just Joe. He was taught that way from his dad to use other people’s money. 

So what Joe has done, basically — let’s use Bill Gates again as an example — is if he thought back then, which he did, that he was going to make this move — somehow, some way — to run for president as a third-party or whichever, he knew that he had to find money. So what’s the best thing to do on the national level, is go find the richest guy in the world and charm him.

When I saw this thing with Bill Gates and he jumps on the plane with gates, flies into West Virginia; that wasn’t all about this battery plant. This is all about Joe trying to figure out: How am I going to get into a bank account?

DB: I first met Scott after I began digging into Manchin’s companies. I was sorting through public records describing the amounts of waste coal that were moved throughout different parts of West Virginia. I looked into the Grant Town Power Plant where the waste coal that Manchin’s companies purchase and re-sells is burned.

I looked at the air quality in Morgantown and surrounding areas near the power plant to try to figure out the exact impact on residents of West Virginia. I looked into the coal ash storage where the remnants of that coal are put underground leaching into waterways and aquifers. And I also started calling around to try to find people who might have insight into how Manchin set up this network of coal companies, what initiated it all, and how he got his start.

Over the course of dozens of calls, I finally reached Scott by chance, and he put me in touch with all kinds of people throughout the state. Scott and Manchin’s relationship dates way back. Horizon Ventures, a company run by Scott’s father Stanley, owns the land on which the Grant Town Power Plant sits. That powerplant is the single largest consumer of coal delivered by Manchin’s company Enersystems. 

SB: I first met Joe, was when he probably started serving in the House of Delegates. Then moving on to state senator in West Virginia, probably around 1984, ’85. Just basically met him through my father. He knew my dad because he was in business for a long time in Fairmont, West Virginia. 

DB: Manchin’s political career began in the ’80s, when he was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates. He moved to the State Senate in 1986 where he served for a decade until running for Governor in 1996. In lining up supporters for his first gubernatorial bid, Manchin sought the support of businessmen in the state, including Scott’s dad.

SB: My dad and Joe, like I said, their relationship went back a lot further than mine, and especially with Joe’s father. My dad had a relationship and history with Joe’s dad, John Sr., and there was some falling out on that end because of some business deals. So my dad had no choice but not to support Joe in 1996. 

And I’ll never forget, it was a Sunday afternoon and it was shortly before the primary that year.  So Joe calls down the house on a Sunday. My mom answers the phone and, “Hey, Karen, what you doing? I bet you’re, it’s Sunday, you’re cooking pasta.” “Oh yeah, Joe cooking pasta. If you wanna come down, come grab a bite to eat.” He said, “OK.” He says, “Stanley there?” 

So, my dad gets on the phone, “Hey Joe, what’s up?” Said, “Hey Stan, what are you doing?” “Oh, nothing, Joe just sitting here.” “Do you mind if I come down and we talk about this race here for Governor in ’96? Because I know we have a little bit of difference and you’re not supporting me and I really need to get you on our side.” And, my dad said, “Hey, Joe, Karen’s cooking some pasta,” my mother, “and you’re more than welcome to come down and chat. But just so you know, I don’t want you to waste a trip, I still can’t support you.” [Laughs]. 

DB: Manchin ended up losing that 1996 Democratic primary for West Virginia governor.  

SS: Joe was devastated. I’ll never forget. I mean, he was so devastated that he lost that race that he had, he always had a Harley. Joe loves his Harleys. He jumps on his Harley by himself shortly after the primary election. And that year in May takes off and drives to Myrtle Beach. And just went to basically get away from everything. 

DB: Though the two families’ relationship was rocky, eventually Scott and Manchin later reconnected around state politics. While their fathers might have butt heads, their sons ended up forging a political alliance. 

SS: And I’ll never forget, talking to Larry shortly after that, maybe several months after that. 

DB: He’s talking about Larry Puccio. Puccio and Manchin knew each other from their days owning businesses together in a local mall: Manchin selling carpets and Puccio selling church organs. 

SS: Larry came from the same mold.

DB: They formed a friendship in that mall that would endure for the rest of their lives.

SS: We’re talking about the election and this and that. And Larry says, “Yeah, he said he’s done. He said he’ll never run, he’s never going to run for another office. He’s just finished with politics. He thought for sure he would win this race. It didn’t happen. And he’s just, he’s just devastated over it.”

So that was that in ’96. And then a few years go by, of course time heals and, and he rethinks his position and, and Larry jumps in and convinces Joe that, “Hey, you know what? There’s a good position right now that we can run for. Let’s run for secretary of state.” And this was in 1999, 2000. 

DB: Puccio, who also had a deep interest in politics, convinces Manchin to run for secretary of state.  

SS: So Larry, once he saw the opening with the secretary of state’s race, and he jumped on that as quick as he could.

DB: Puccio is now an extremely established lobbyist in Washington where he lobbies on behalf of energy interests. He says that he doesn’t talk to Manchin about his projects, although Manchin has told the press that Puccio is one of his unconditional friends and that he talks to all of his unconditional friends. Larry Puccio did not respond to The Intercept’s request for comment at the time this episode was published

Because of their shared history, Scott agreed to work on Manchin’s campaign for secretary of state. Through his business dealings, Scott knew the power players in Northern West Virginia where he had grown up. He also excelled at finding new political allies in national politics. So when Manchin decided to run for secretary of state, he saw in Scott someone who could bolster his political odds better than anyone else. 

Whether it was at PTA meetings, Veterans Associations, or Democratic Party fundraisers, Scott was his man for getting the word out and bringing coalitions of interest groups together to turn out the vote.

Scott handled political operations in Northern West Virginia running the campaign in that region. Puccio was Manchin’s lieutenant in the southern portion of the state. With Scott and Puccio’s help, Manchin successfully won his race for secretary of state.

SS: And then Joe said, “Hey, I want you to come work for me in the secretary of state’s office. We’re gonna put a real neat program together that I think will make a big, big difference in voter registration in the state of West Virginia,” because voter registration was down so much.

And he said, “Would you want a full-time job?” I said, “Sure.”

DB: In the secretary of state’s office, Scott helped champion a strategy that would strengthen Manchin’s voter base.

SS: We created a program called the Share’s Program, S-H-A-R-E-S, that was the acronym for Saving History And Reaching Every Student.

And what we would do would go around to schools — every school in the state of West Virginia — high schools, and talk to principals, talk to superintendents of the counties and convince them that, hey, we’d like to get you guys involved with this program to make sure that we’re getting high school kids registered to vote because the voter registration was so low.

So we started that program and what that program did, is it not only gave us, what would you say, it didn’t [just] give us the permission just to go into the high schools, but it also made it easy for us that when we were in these counties, that you’re up there working with different counties that you were able to meet with the senior citizens, the Fraternal Order of Police any fraternities and different groups, and continue to build that base.

And that, and that’s all this was, was to build a base because knowing that Joe was going to run for governor in 2004. And at that time, the governor of West Virginia was Bob Wise. And Bob Wise got in, he had some problems. I can’t remember exactly what all happened, but it affected him real, really, really bad.

DB: Bob Wise’s problems centered on 500 emails obtained by the AP detailing the back and forth between the Governor and Mascia-Frye, the state’s Europe project manager. Wise would go on to admit that he had been unfaithful to his wife and family, and that he would not seek re-election as governor. That scandal created an opportunity for Manchin to run for his seat. 

SS: Plus, I don’t think the state of West Virginia was doing real well at that time. So that seat looked like that, OK, this is something that I think we can do. And the only person that Joe had to worry about that he had to run against was a guy by the name of Lloyd Jackson, because Lloyd Jackson was backed by education.

And you only had two teachers unions in West Virginia. You had the AFT and the WVEA. And the WVEA at the time, they had the largest membership. And if we could get the endorsement of WVEA, we’d have a good chance of winning that race.

DB: To have a fighting chance at the governorship, Manchin would need the help of a family member famous in West Virginia politics, his uncle A. James Manchin. So let’s back up a bit. 

A. James was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates when he was only 21. He became friends with the powerful West Virginia Governor Arch Moore, father to the current U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito. A. James used his seat in the House of Delegates to build political power in the state and forge relationships.

When JFK ran for president in 1960, it was A. James who took him all over the state, introducing him to political players and driving out the vote. He traveled up and down West Virginia meeting thousands of voters listening to their stories and speaking at large events and small gatherings. At a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, Kennedy told the audience: “No state in the country has suffered more from the neglect of the federal government than West Virginia.” Here’s JFK campaigning in West Virginia in 1960:

John F. Kennedy: Whether you vote for me or not, because of my competence to be president, I am sure that here, in this state of West Virginia, that no one believes that I’d be a candidate for the presidency if I didn’t think I could meet my oath of office.

DB: Fresh off a win in Wisconsin — his primary challenger Hubert Humphrey’s home state — Kennedy clinched West Virginia, which opened the door to winning the presidency. After Kennedy’s win, he appointed A. James the West Virginia state director of the farmers home association, giving him tremendous power to distribute funds all over West Virginia.

A. James Manchin: This is A. James Manchin, your secretary of state. With 36 years of experience in state government, 10 years of financial management and community development with the Farmers Home Administration, let us put West Virginia’s money to work in West Virginia.

DB: A. James went on to win a race for secretary of state and then state treasurer, but was impeached in 1989 for losing the state $279 million in bad investments.

Years later, in 2004, when Joe Manchin was launching his second run for governor, his uncle provided the same political muscle that had boosted JFK, until things took a tragic turn.

SS: Unfortunately, Joe’s uncle A. James Manchin had just passed away right in the middle of his primary. And he was so valuable because people still loved A. James because A. James was just like, he was like a Ted Kennedy.

He was, he was a great orator. And he was very colorful and people loved him. And unfortunately he passes away. And I’ll never forget, the day of the funeral, we’re at the funeral in Farmington. And that same day, the interview for Joe to meet with WVEA to get their endorsement, was that evening in Charleston.

DB: The same day that Manchin’s uncle A. James passes away — the man who helped Kennedy win the presidential election — is the night he’s going to meet with Tom Lange, the president of the West Virginia Teachers Union — a critical institution whose endorsement he needs to win the governorship.

SS: And of course, Joe’s just emotionally upset — lost his favorite uncle. He and I jump[ed] in a car from Farmington, right from where the church was and the celebration. 

DB: At this point, Manchin and Scott leave A. James’ funeral and head to Charleston, to meet Tom Lange. 

SS: We take off and we drive to Charleston. And of course, he’s just not feeling good.

And he’s like, “buddy, I don’t,” he said, “this is not good. This, I just, I don’t know if I can do this today.” I said, “well, I’ll just go in there and do your best.” 

So we get in front of the, we pull in front of the WVEA office and I say, “Hey, you go ahead and go in and then I’ll just hang out here and just call me when you’re done and I’ll pick you up.” And he comes out and gets in the car and I could see the look on his face.

And I’m like, “Well, how’d it go?” He’s all: “Buddy,” his exact words, he said, “I fucking blew that one.” He said, “I blew it. There’s no chance we’re going to get this endorsement.” So I take him and drop him off at his place down there and, and I called Tom and I’m like, “Hey, what are we gonna do?” He said, “It’s going to be tough.”

And Tom calls me back a little later and he says, “OK, we got it. They voted in favor to endorse him.” So he calls Joe, tells him what happened, and then Joe immediately calls me, he says, “What the hell did you do?” I’m like, well, I said, “Hey, don’t ask me. That’s Tom. You know Tom’s the guy who was the president of the WVEA.” So that right there was the jumpstart to basically moving on and pretty much with that endorsement and with the largest teachers union in West Virginia, that pretty much secured the nomination for the primary election for the governor’s race.

DB: Manchin’s run for Governor coincided with the 2004 presidential election. He, Scott, and Larry Puccio decided to take a play out of A. James’ playbook.

They linked up with Ted Kennedy to tour West Virginia and deepen their relationships with U.S. Senators and Democratic nominee for President John Kerry.

SS: West Virginia was in play during that race for John Kerry. John Kerry was running a tight race for president that year. So of course, West Virginia’s five electoral votes were in play.

So when they came down before the general of that year West Virginia was still in play. It was the last weekend of October before the November election. So me and Larry organized a bus tour in the Southern West Virginia because John Kerry needed Southern West Virginia and Joe needed Southern West Virginia as well. We wanted to secure that.

So we brought Ted Kennedy with us on that trip. Ted Kennedy and A. James are really, really good friends. So on that bus tour, that right there, probably with that group of people — especially when you’ve got Robert Bird, Jay Rockefeller, and Ted Kennedy with you — and you’re in southern West Virginia, the same town that JFK did his famous speech in West Virginia, was our last stop in, in Logan, West Virginia.

DB: Thanks to Manchin’s voter turnout efforts while serving as secretary of state, and the star-studded crew of celebrity politicians crisscrossing West Virginia with him, Manchin secured his seat as governor.

[Music transition.]

DB: After multiple terms as governor, investigations descended around Manchin in 2010. The federal government subpoenaed the Department of Transportation’s Division of Highways, investigating land seized through eminent domain, and also solicited campaign finance records from the secretary of state’s office dating back to Manchin’s 1996 gubernatorial bid. The investigation also sought records from the Department of Administration’s Aviation Division. 

Local papers also reported that Larry Puccio’s land assessment firm was being investigated by the IRS and the FBI for its role in the construction of a $150 million highway running straight through Manchin’s hometown.

Manchin had two connections to the family of the U.S. Attorney overseeing the probe. At the time of the probe, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia was Booth Goodwin. He was also the nephew of Manchin’s secretary of Culture and Arts, Kay Goodwin. Booth Goodwin was also the cousin of Carte Goodwin, Manchin’s former legal counsel and the man he would appoint as interim senator before filling the seat himself. 

When Carte declined to run in the special election four months later, ultimately only one person, a confidential FBI source, was charged with tax evasion and mail fraud.

Despite the investigation in 2010, that same year, Manchin would go on to win election to the Senate by over 50,000 votes, narrowly retaining Democratic control. Years later, Booth Goodwin would go on to run a Super PAC aiding in Manchin’s reelection.

None of the Goodwins responded to The Intercept’s request for comment by the time of publication.


DB: Just as Manchin was critical for maintaining Democrats’ control of the Senate when he was first elected in 2010, today, Manchin enjoys even greater power to make nearly any demand of the Biden administration he sees fit.

As I reported last summer, both Manchin and his wife – who chairs the Appalachian Regional Commission – have directed tens of millions of dollars to the conservation area surrounding their vacation condo. As Senator, Manchin has also used his tiebreaking vote to quash Biden’s nominees for critical agencies. He has pushed for fossil fuel expansion. And, most recently, was able to win approval for the Mountain Valley Pipeline – a massive natural gas project, which stands to greatly benefit Larry Puccio’s biggest client, the Appalachian Natural Gas Operators Coalition.

SS: What Joe is doing right now is he’s out there testing the waters. And just like what he’s doing, more so right now with Mountain Valley Pipeline, with a permitting process.

He thought that was a slam dunk, whenever he signed on with the Inflation Reduction Act with Biden, that he was guaranteed those permits. Well, we all know that, hey, Biden’s not gonna do anything with climate, especially involving gas or coal.

DB: But the IRA — the Inflation Reduction Act, Biden’s massive spending package — failed to deliver Manchin the permitting reform and Mountain Valley Pipeline he desperately sought. In May, after months of waiting, Manchin was finally able to secure a green light for the pipeline as part of the bipartisan debt ceiling bill.

Today, Manchin is in a perilous position. His approval rating in West Virginia is the lowest it’s ever been, and old allies in the state are looking for the exits, as Governor Jim Justice launches his bid for Manchin’s seat. 

Margaret Brennan [Face the Nation]: Jim Justice, your Governor, Republican — he’s coming for your job. He has declared, and I know you have said you are going to take your time till the end of the year to decide. But, doesn’t he have at least [a] six month advantage here? Don’t you need to tell people what your plans are?

Joe Manchin: Well, here’s the thing Margaret, you just said, “about my job.” My job is to do what I can to help the people of West Virginia and support this great country of ours and defend the constitution. 

DB: With few options left, Manchin has hinted that his next move could be to run for the only office higher than his own, President of the United States.

SS: Let’s start with Larry Puccio. You have Larry Puccio that jumped on board with Joe going back to day one. Like I, like I told you. OK, they both wrote each other’s coattails and Larry did a good job running campaigns and Chief of Staff and this and that.

And then of course Larry — he’s just looking for the most popular politician in the state of West Virginia. So, at that time, he jumps on Jim Justice, when Jim Justice decided to run for governor. So now here we are: Joe works his butt off to become the U.S. Senator that he is, and to be in the position that he’s in, and by making a couple bad decisions, like the Inflation Reduction Act and things like that, that have brought his poll numbers way, way down, and with Jim Justice jumping in this race, who Larry, is – still to this day – Jim Justice’s consultant as governor. So now it comes down to: Who has a better chance of winning? Can Jim Justice win, or can Joe win? Well, we all know right now that Joe cannot beat Jim Justice in West Virginia for the Senate seat in 2024.

So here you have Jim Justice, that’s gonna take Joe’s seat from him, because then that puts the Senate back at 50/50 at least. And Joe’s out there on an island right now all by himself not knowing where to go. He’s looking at this one or two different ways.

DB: Having served as Machin’s political operative for years, Scott says there’s only one move left for the senator to make, and that’s running for president in the 2024 election.

[Music transition.]

DB: As rumors swirl about Manchin’s presidential ambitions, the group with the most to gain from his bid is No Labels. The centrist political organization has helped support moderates in tough races and runs the Super PAC behind the Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus, who concentrate their efforts on causing problems for both progressives and hardline conservatives.

Ahead of the 2024 election, No Labels has raised over $70 million in anticipation of running a split ticket with one Democrat and one Republican to “bring America back to the center.”

Joe Manchin and Republican Senator Susan Collins have both frequented No Labels events in recent months.

SS: So Joe’s looking at this whole thing saying: “OK, I can put myself in a position right now; I can go out and try to raise as much money as I can, probably never get to the number that I need to be competitive – “

A third-party candidate — Ross Perot ran and did a decent job and I think he ended up with 20 percent. We all know that that magic number as a third-party to win this race has to be between 30 and 35 percent, to even have a chance.

I don’t think, me personally, there’s any chance Joe can even come close to that. And he probably knows that as well. So he’s looking at this right now, the way I know Joe, is a couple different ways.

Number one: “I can go out and muddy the waters up a little bit. I can get a lot of attention on the media. I’ll travel all over the country, meet with some people, raise some money. That money will go into my campaign.”

Or, at the end of the day if he thinks he can carry five or 10 percent in the next election. And let’s just, let’s just call five percent. And if five percent is going to cost someone the election — it’s either gonna cost the Republican or the Democrat the election; as we all know, that five percent is a big number. So somewhere during midstream, what he does is he cuts a deal. The retail politician comes back out, he negotiates a deal, and he says, “Hey, I’ll get the heck outta this thing you guys. But I want to be secretary of state, secretary of energy, some cabinet position, where he can just jet set all over the country and all over the world, and finish out his political career have his income coming in, and still make the connections that he needs to, basically, what Joe has always done, is to prosper personally from it.

DB: Manchin hasn’t publicly confirmed a presidential run, and has dodged questions about running on a No Labels ticket.

Larry Kudlow [Fox Business]: So Joe you’re going to leave — the presidential door open, you’re going to leave it open for the moment? 

Joe Manchin: I haven’t closed anything, Larry, and I’ve kept everything open. I haven’t closed a thing. And I’m just leaving everything possible to help my country move in a moderate, centrist — making sure we’re making our decisions not from the extremes, Larry.  

SS: At the end of the day, and that’s why he keeps saying that, “I can’t make a decision until the end of the year.” Well, the only reason he’s saying that is because, once again, he’s out there seeing what kind of money is available for him to move forward with that decision.

So right now it’s just a little bit too early and those campaign contributions aren’t coming, probably aren’t coming in fast enough. And then his poll numbers aren’t moving at all in West Virginia. So he knows that’s pretty, pretty much a dead issue; he knows as of right now, he cannot beat Jim Justice.

So that’s all he’s doing right now. He’s just buying time to see which direction he’s going to go. So this is what his ambition is, and at this point of his political career, the clock is ticking. He’ll be 75 in August. This is his last big hurrah, so he’s gonna go out with a bang one way or the other.

DB: After getting everything he’s asked for, from funding for the nature preserve, where he vacations, to a massive natural gas pipeline, to a sweetheart deal appointing his wife to the Appalachian Regional Commission, Scott says Manchin’s final act won’t go as well as his decades-long stint in politics.

SS: Hey, we all know how the political cycle works. And we know that polling is the most important thing, and that’s what Larry’s job always was, was to look at polls. And we lived and died by polls. And polls are, that’s, if you’re dancing with the devil, you’re gonna find out real quick where you stand. And Joe danced with that devil one too many times, and that’s why he is in the position that he’s in right now in West Virginia with an approval rating hovering right around that 40 percent mark.

DB:  Whether Manchin decides to run for president, or double down in the private sector, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for the latest developments. And so will Scott.

DB: Well Scott, thank you so much for laying out the psychology and political history of Joe Manchin and for coming on the show.

SS: Sounds good, my friend. I appreciate it. And we will look forward to see what unfolds here in the near future.

DB: Alright. Thanks, Scott. 

SS: OK, thank you.

[Deconstructed outro theme music.]

DB: Deconstructed is a production of The Intercept. Our producer is José Olivares. Our supervising producer is Laura Flynn and our senior editor is Maryam Saleh. The show is mixed by William Stanton. Our theme music was composed by Bart Warshaw. Roger Hodge is The Intercept’s editor-in-chief.

And I’m Daniel Boguslaw, The Intercept’s Washington reporter. 

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Thanks so much.

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