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A common football play that usually doesn’t pay huge dividends is the run up the middle. Generally, this play ends up on, or close to, the line of scrimmage, with negligible gain or loss.

Why then, is it used so often?

Because the payoff, when there is one, can be spectacular. The ball carrier can jink either right or left — he cannot be forced out of bounds. Even if he is stopped short of a touchdown, it is almost certain that, once past the defensive line, there will be a first down.

Metaphorically speaking, West Virginia’s own Sen. Joe Manchin, the state’s lone Democrat in Congress, has been running this play a lot recently. Do you suppose that the idea of a President Manchin is ridiculous? If you think that, try this thought experiment: Ask a large number of voters — red and blue — to list six federal-level politicians they admire or at least find tolerable. I submit that only Manchin’s name will show on both lists; moreover, his name will be mentioned more than any other.

Progressive Democrats will shun him, but others, knowing he is from a red state and that he helped negotiate and pass the infrastructure bill, will mention him.

Republicans, including Trumpists, might bemoan the fact that he is a Democrat but admire his stand against so-called “socialism” and (as they see it), ecological panic.

Name recognition? He’s got it.

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In my opinion, the Biden administration has done reasonably well, given the circumstances in which they found themselves. But I am out of the mainstream. The withering fire of criticism, wild scenarios (he is a puppet) and hyperbole (he is senile), have lowered the favorability of the president and vice president to low 40s in percentage terms. If Democrats panic, they might jettison Biden and Harris, or Harris only, and install Manchin. Note that this scenario might continue to hold, even if a Biden/Harris ticket ekes out a 2024 win.

If the presidency is really in Manchin’s sight, he might threaten to bolt the party and become either the Republican veep or a presidential candidate. Or, less drastic but still quite possibly effective, Manchin could credibly threaten to bow out nationally and run for governor in West Virginia (he could promise to be a full-time governor — no coaching).

It takes little imagination to envision a Manchin for president movement based on the premise that only he can save the United States from civil war. Joe could simper and stare at his feet (Me? You really want me?). Running an ad in which he picks up an assault rifle and shoots a copy of the communist manifesto, he could be “seriously considering,” but as yet “undecided,” “communicating with his family” and so on about the prospect.

Personally, I would choose Biden/Harris over a Manchin ticket, if only for the single (but important) issue of mitigating planet-wide climate change damage. In addition, this Christmas, we can celebrate knowing we are finally not at war — a status we have not had for 20 years. How cool is that? Sing those carols! Ring those bells!

But, one must admit, a ticket to avoid civil war does have a certain undeniable cache. Be that as it may, let us return to the football metaphor to try to imagine how a Manchin draft movement could fire up a centrist base:

“The ball goes to the QB, who keeps it. He running up the center! There is a key block, then anther. He’s past the line! Running free! Running! Manchin is running!”

John Palmer lives in Huntington.

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