Now that the funeral's over, the politicking begins. Republicans are trying to force a special election this year.
The RNC and the WV GOP are exploring ways to bring a lawsuit that would force the Mountaineer State to hold an election earlier than planned, the sources said. That could be the best option for the GOP, which believes it can win Byrd's seat in this favorable political climate.
But it will involve compelling the state to actually hold the contest. WV Sec/State Natalie Tennant (D) said last week that Gov. Joe Manchin's (D) eventual appointee would be able to serve until the '12 elections. And election law precedent appears to be on Tennant's side, given a WV Supreme Court decision from '94.
The RNC has already transfered money to the state GOP, according to a committee source.
And Democratic party officials are pushing Gov. Manchin to take the seat. At the time of Byrd's death, Manchin said that he would not appoint himself, but he's getting pressure to do just that.
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel in West Virginia reported Tuesday that Larry Puccio, the Democratic state party chairman and a former top aide to Mr. Manchin, said callers to party headquarters had overwhelmingly supported the idea of Mr. Manchin joining the Senate. State union leaders also plan to call for the governor to take the job.
Mr. Manchin remains popular in the state and had his eye on a Senate race in 2012, but Mr. Byrd’s death has changed his timetable. Besides filling the post, the governor also has to decide whether the appointment will last until November 2012, when Mr. Byrd’s term ends, or to push for a change in state law that would allow a special election this year.
Whatever Manchin decides, he needs to decide fast. The Senate Dem caucus needs to be at full strength, such as it is, for fights that start as soon as next week. From financial reform to extending unemployment benefits, they need that vote.