When West Virginia Democrats struck a deal with state Republicans last night on a 2010 special election to replace the late Senator Robert Byrd, what was already obvious (Joe Manchin's ambition to be Senator) became glaringly so.
And earlier this morning, it became official. Joe Manchin is seeking the move from Charleston to Washington:
West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III (D) announced Tuesday that he will run in this fall's special election to replace the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D).
"I will represent the people of West Virginia every day," Manchin said during Tuesday's press conference at the state capital in Charleston. "I want to make sure they see West Virginia people and hear West Virginia people through me."
Manchin, in his announcement speech, paid homage to Byrd, saying that while he could never fill the late Democrat's shoes, he did hope to follow in his footsteps.
Republicans now wait to see if their lone viable candidate, Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, will run for the seat. The likelihood of her candidacy grew exponentially higher yesterday, with the provision added to the special election bill that Capito could run simultaneously for her House seat and this Senate seat.
That deal, which was made at the insistence of state Republicans, seems to make clear (as commenter Jonze noted last night) that Governor Manchin wanted an election this year (while his approval ratings are in the stratosphere) come hell or high water. Of course, it is worth noting that his own ambitions seem to have guaranteed that the GOP will be able to field the lone candidate capable of giving him a run for his money.
Manchin's approval ratings are excellent, but West Virginia is a state where the Democratic brand is in seriously bad shape. The President's job approval ratings, according to Gallup, are lower in West Virginia than they are in any other state, save for Utah. These competing impulses could create an interesting electoral scenario.
Only Rasmussen has polled this Senate matchup, giving Manchin a fourteen-point edge over Capito (53-39) two weeks ago.