Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he is considering leaving his party, citing the declining “brand” of political parties. Speculation has swirled about Manchin’s loyalties to his party for more than a year as he faces a re-election bid next year to represent one of the reddest states for another six years. During an interview with West Virginia MetroNews on Thursday, he was asked about abandoning the Democratic Party. “I would think very seriously about that,” Manchin told “Talkline” radio host Hoppy Kercheval. “I’ve been thinking about that for quite some time,” the senator said. “I haven’t made any decisions whatsoever on any of my political direction.” Manchin said he wishes his voice to be independent — where he is able to offer praise and criticism of both Republicans and Democrats. “For me, I have to have peace of mind basically,” Manchin stated. He continued: “The brand has become so bad. The ‘D’ brand and ‘R’ brand. In West Virginia, the ‘D’ brand because it’s nationally bad. It’s not the Democrats in West Virginia. It’s the Democrats in Washington or the Washington policies of the Democrats.” Manchin also said he has always been clear that he is “not a Washington Democrat.” Kercheval asked the senator if he has considered severing ties with Democrats and becoming an independent. “Absolutely,” Manchin responded. The third-term senator said he also hopes to see an independent candidate for president emerge and challenge the two-party system. “The bottom line is — will the middle speak up?” he said. “Does the middle have a voice? If we can create a movement that people understand that we could have a voice.” Manchin concluded, “We could make a big, big splash and maybe bring the traditional parties, the Democratic and Republican Party, back to what they should be today, but they’ve gone off the Richter Scale, both sides.” The 75-year-old is expected to face a major fight to hold his seat after next November — which Democrats need to hold for a chance to retain its slim Senate majority. The Democratic Party’s policies are wildly unpopular in West Virginia, where voters will choose Manchin’s opponent next year. Republican Gov. Jim Justice announced his candidacy for Manchin’s seat in April. Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Alex Mooney announced his bid to unseat Manchin last November following his successful re-election bid. A poll released in May by the East Carolina University Center for Survey Research found Justice was leading Manchin by 22 points in a hypothetical match-up. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.