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Lori Wolfe/The Herald-Dispatch Joe Manchin Sen. attends the Veterans Day ceremony held Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, in Huntington.

For most of this year, Joe Manchin effectively prevented any other prominent Democrat from announcing his or her intentions to run for statewide office. As long as Manchin toyed with the idea of running for governor, no one else would jump into that ring.

And, not knowing who will run for governor, activity on the other statewide offices such as attorney general and secretary of state was quiet, too.

On Tuesday, Manchin said he would not run for governor next year. He will honor the remaining five years on his term in the U.S. Senate.

That probably means other candidates' plans will fall into place as we see who else wants to challenge Stephen Smith, the only announced Democratic candidate so far. We might also see movement on the Republican side, where few people probably wanted to challenge both incumbent Gov. Jim Justice in the Republican primary and Manchin in the general election.

Manchin has a hard-charging personality that works best when he is in control. That did him well in his six years as governor, but it also has made his eight years in Washington difficult. In all likelihood, Manchin would have won next year had he run. Returning to the Capitol must have been tempting, but times have changed since he left in 2010.

For one thing, Manchin's party no longer controls the Legislature. Both have flipped to Republican control after decades of Democratic dominance. Manchin would have to do more negotiating and strong-arming to get his way than he was used to before.

And it might not be a coincidence that Manchin announced his decision the same day the state's August revenue figures were announced. Again, revenue was below estimates and below what the state was relying on to balance its budget. Part of that could be because construction activity in the natural gas industry - midstream processing and pipeline construction - has slowed.

In short, the Capitol today is a different environment for a Democratic governor, even one as popular with both parties as Manchin is, than it was before. There's also the question of age. Manchin will be 73 on Election Day next year. He would be 77 on Election Day 2024 if he had run for a second term. That's almost young for a senator but it's old for a governor.

And he would have to answer the same questions, allegations and accusations he did last year when he narrowly defeated Republican Patrick Morrisey in his re-election bid.

In staying in the Senate, Manchin not only avoided problems for himself but he also did West Virginia a service.

In a culture where political differences are interpreted as treason or even crimes against humanity, West Virginia needs someone who can work on bipartisan efforts to benefit the nation as a whole. Manchin is one of the few who bridge that gap.

Democrats in Washington are probably glad Manchin is staying put. If he were to leave, the seat could very well flip Republican, which would hinder the Democratic Party's chances of retaking the Senate next year.

Washington may frustrate Manchin, just as it frustrates the average Mountain State resident. But Manchin has a place there where he can help West Virginia, perhaps more than he could as governor.

Whether he made the right decision remains to be seen, but from early indications, he did.

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