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RRH's 2014 General Election Preview Series:

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Part 5 - Western Governors

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Part 1 - Legislatures and Local

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Row Officers

WV-Sen: Rockefeller Retiring

by: shamlet

Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 10:25:19 AM EST

Well, we have our first Senate retirement. We kinda knew this was coming after his anti-coal comments and tepid response to Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) entering the race.

Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller will announce Friday that he will not seek a sixth term in 2014, setting the stage for a pitched battle for his Senate seat in West Virginia. He is slated to announce his plans in Charleston.

Not facing a 30-year incumbent, even one as out-of-step with his state as Rockefeller, is definitely a positive for Capito and leaves her the front-runner to pick up Republicans' first Senate seat in WV since 1958.

This decision clears the way for other ambitious members of the very deep WVDP bench to try their hand at a somewhat uphill race against the state's most popular Republican. State Dem Chairman Mike Callaghan has already expressed his interest, but the most likely possibility is SoS Natalie Tennant, who ran for Governor in 2011 and would not have to give up her office to run. Other possibilities are ethically challenged Treasurer John Perdue, ex-State Sen. Mike Oliverio, current State Sens. Jeff Kessler and Brooks McCabe, and State House Speaker Rick Thompson(UPDATE: Thompson says no.). Kessler and Thompson would both need to give up their current positions to run.

Update: I had written off 19-term Rep. Nick Rahall, whose victory margins have been narrowing precipitously in recent cycles, as a serious candidate due to his seniority, but he says he's interested. If the pro-Obamacare Rahall wants to run, I say bring it on.

shamlet :: WV-Sen: Rockefeller Retiring
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Let's not blow this one
We were handed a gift in North Dakota and should've had that one.  

R, CA-37; hometown: PA-2

The key will be for Capito to strike a balance between protecting her right flank and losing her cross-over appeal. Not as tight of a balancing act in WV as elsewhere.  

male, social, fiscal and foreign policy center-right Republican, in but not of academia, VA-08.

[ Parent ]
it's a smaller state
Some have said that Berg lacked that 1 on 1 personal appeal with the voters. Capito is a much longer tenured congresswoman.

That said, there needs to be a better job of clearing the field.

27, R, PA-07.

[ Parent ]
The thing that scares me
Obviously, North Dakota wasn't the only one we  blew in 2012-2012. While you certainly can't liken Capito to Richard Mourdock, Todd Akin and Denny Rehberg were also in congress. Sure, she doesn't have Akin's foot in mouth disease and didn't sue the local fire department but it just seems like it's always something with our guys. I thought Connie Mack, George Allen, and Tommy Thompson were good candidates.

R, CA-37; hometown: PA-2

[ Parent ]
I think Shelley really wants this.
You don't jump into a senate race almost two years early unless your really dedicated to it. With it being Barack Obama's second midterm and his popularity in West Virginia never lower I think she'll be fine.

[ Parent ]
Sean Trendē Tweets
Sean Trendē ‏@SeanTrende
We haven't done race ratings yet, but in my mind this moves from tossup to Leans D, depending on who gets in.

Sean Trendē ‏@SeanTrende
Capito's path was probably easier against Jay Rock-a standard issue liberal-than the more populist Democrat she might face now.

R, CA-37; hometown: PA-2

Mentioning ERT as a candidate?
Seriously Sean (if you're reading this), that's malarkey as Biden would say. ERT has been in State Politics since 1974 and been at its highest levels for 20 years. He has the job he wants.

Look up the names above and tell me seriously if you think any one of them is stronger than Rockefeller with his built in name rec.

R - MD-7

[ Parent ]
I agree this moves things toward Democrats, but not to lean D.
It's hard to imagine Rockefeller remaining competitive after his coal comments, so most candidates will be an improvement for Dems here. That said, Capito isn't exactly a B-lister, and the Dem primary here has serious clown-car potential. Boy would I love to see the net-roots find a bold progressive to back here...

male, social, fiscal and foreign policy center-right Republican, in but not of academia, VA-08.

[ Parent ]
the issue with him is that he has limitless cash and 100% name rec. This is a positive development for Republicans because of that alone.

R - MD-7

[ Parent ]
I never thought Rockefeller retiring would be a positive development for Democrats. I'd much rather run against somebody who has never run for the seat before than somebody who people have got used to voting for many times. Rockefeller may be unpopular, but not to the level of unpopularity that made him certain to lose. Sean Trende is usually pretty good, but I think he's really off on this one.

42, R, NE-1.

[ Parent ]
The only way it's positive for them is if Tomblin runs
And even then, Capito is still in good shape. Tomblin has gotten 49.6% and 50.5% in his two statewide elections.

[ Parent ]
Nick Rahall?
Chad Pergram ‏@ChadPergram
Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) says he's interested in running for the Senate seat vacated by longtime Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV).

R, CA-37; hometown: PA-2

Did not expect that one. The #7 House Dem in Seniority leaving his seat to run for the Senate? Guess either he thinks he might lose WV-3 or that the Dems have no chance of getting the majority back in his congressional lifetime.

R - MD-7

[ Parent ]
Where is he on issue positions? I would think he keeps this competitive for Democrats better than many of their other options.

male, social, fiscal and foreign policy center-right Republican, in but not of academia, VA-08.

[ Parent ]
Voted for Obamacare

R - MD-7

[ Parent ]
House Seniority
Not a whole lot of advantage to being high in seniority in a "permanent" house minority, better to take your shot at the upper house than sit around another 8 years hoping for a majority (that would also probably strip you of your gavel in favor of a more committed leftist representative).

Marco Rubio 2016, please

[ Parent ]
Senate Conservatives Fund opposes Capito

R, CA-37; hometown: PA-2

Trying to stay relevant
without DeMint I expect them to wane in influence.

R - MD-7

[ Parent ]
The Senate Conservatives Fund should seriously only do this in seats that we are 100% certain to win (note to anyone from the SCF who may be reading this: we are NOT 100% certain to win WV-Sen). It's almost like we're making it our mission to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Senate races.

Lifelong Republican, TX-17

[ Parent ]
This wouldn't be the first time
Republicans have thown away several very winnable seats in the last two cycles due to primaries of this nature. Not sure if that'll happen here, but it is possible.

I am a Tom Rukavina Democrat.

[ Parent ]
After blowing it countless times in the past two cycles, I'm kind of disappointed that some still haven't learned their lesson.

Lifelong Republican, TX-17

[ Parent ]
SCF "opposed" Kirk as well...
But didn't do anything about it. One possibility is that they'll actually go hard after her, another is that they're just posturing, and trying to get her to move right this cycle. My big concern with SCF is that they'll go Stenberg in this race, and back a perrennial loser because he says the right things. However, if CFG can be convinced to stay out and go after other targets, I think the damage could be limited. And I certainly doubt they'd back McKinley over Capito after the Ryan budget issue.  

male, social, fiscal and foreign policy center-right Republican, in but not of academia, VA-08.

[ Parent ]
Oliverio is the only Dem who worries me...
As he's such a conservadem he might actually be able to get to SMC's right.

male, social, fiscal and foreign policy center-right Republican, in but not of academia, VA-08.

He IS to her right
Ditto with McKinley.

26, Male, R, NY-10

[ Parent ]
If he voted against the Ryan plan from the left, while she did vote for the Ryan plan, I don't think McKinely could claim that he's to SMC's right.

Lifelong Republican, TX-17

[ Parent ]
He as in Oliverio

26, Male, R, NY-10

[ Parent ]
Social issues
I think McKinley is on the right of SMC on social issues...

38, male, Roma ( Italia ), conservative

[ Parent ]
Great news
As long as Capito is the nominee and runs a decent campaign the seat should be her's  

Dems in West Virginia
I think people underrate how different people in West Virginia see local and national Democrats. If a Democrat isn't from West Virginia, he's now seen as an anti-coal anti-gun pro-choice liberal. A Democrats from West Virginia is different. Democrats have been running winning statewide campaigns in West Virginia even as the electorate votes Republican for President. If the Democrats get someone who can run a strong campaign this is a fight.  

R, CA-37; hometown: PA-2

[ Parent ]
will happen to WV eventually. Capito's father did pretty well as a Republican in WV. She's the second most politician in the state. I agree it would be a fight if it were anyone but Capito, and it may still be a fight, but I think it's hard to argue that someone with sky high favorables doesn't start out as the favorite.  

[ Parent ]
Tommy Thompson
High favorables. Won statewide 3 times.

R, CA-37; hometown: PA-2

[ Parent ]
He did start out as the favorite  

Male, LA-01

Cassidy, Rounds, Ernst, Handel, Land for Senate!  

[ Parent ]
Pat Toomey Problem
People made the mistake of assuming Baldwin was a bad candidate because she was ideologically extreme. But those don't always go hand-in-hand. In the end, she ran a very strong campaign, and turned out to be a very good candidate, a much better one in fact than Thompson.

Democrats made the same mistake for years with Toomey, who they assumed was weak because of his associations with the Club for Growth.

27 NH-01/London/MA-07

Centrist Foreign Policy Realist - Tory in the UK, RINO locally

[ Parent ]
Lean R, I suspect
I wouldn't dare underestimate West Virginia Democrats' ability to nominate an electable Blue Dog, but this still seems like Capito's race to lose. And I don't see McKinley as an especially exciting or credible alternative in the primary.

24, MA-07, Rockefeller Republican. Visit me at

Slight Tilt R
But I do think Rick Thompson, Earl Ray Tomblin or Oliverio could win it.

Rahall probably not, but he might have a shot.  Goodwin and Tennant most likely not though.

33/M/D/NY-01 DKE:Socks The Cat

The problem with Tomblin and Oliverio...
Is that, if both of them ran, it would split the conservative Democrats and allow someone to their left to run. For this reason, I suspect only one of them runs. Oliverio is actually far enough to the right that, while he could get backing from some conservatives, he'd be extremely vulnerable to net-roots opposition. If anything, IIRC Oliverio's more of a DINO than Manchin, and was one of the few challengers in 2010 who openly said he wouldn't vote for Pelosi.
Ironically, if Oliverio wants the seat, he might be best off switching parties and trying to run to Capito's right. Then again, if Oliverio hasn't switched parties yet I presume he probably won't do it now.

As for Tomblin, I suspect he's got the Capito problem in reverse; why give up his governorship for an uphill run at SMC, in a mid-term where Obama's not likely to be popular. Sure, Manchin did it and got away with it, but Tomblin isn't as good a politician as Manchin, and Capito's a way better candidate than Raese.

Rick Thompson is definitely ambitious, but IIRC isn't much of a blue dog. He may try to run as a populist Democrat, but the national party is going to be toxic in 2014 in a way that I don't think it's ever been in WV before.

Incidentally, the only person I can imagine credibly challenging SMC in a Republican primary is the newly-elected AG, Patrick Morisy. He'd have a free shot, but I doubt he'd take it. As I've expressed previously on the other thread, I think Maloney is highly unlikely to run; he doesn't want to become the next Raese, and would probably have a free shot at WV-02 if he wants it (and if Rahall does run for senate, we've got a better than even shot at his seat as well IMO).  

male, social, fiscal and foreign policy center-right Republican, in but not of academia, VA-08.

[ Parent ]
He's actually been speculated as a WV-2 candidate, where he might well be the front-runner. He's an establishment guy anyway so I doubt he'd challenge Capito.

At this point it looks like Rahall. He seems the most enthusiastic.

R - MD-7

[ Parent ]

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