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Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) official portrait
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R)
Republicans have just landed their biggest fish in West Virginia, where 2nd District Rep. Shelley Moore Capito has just announced a challenge to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents up for reelection in 2014, thanks to his state's sharp movement toward the GOP in recent years. The 75-year-old Rockefeller has yet to announce whether he will, in fact, seek a sixth term in the Senate, and a surprisingly anti-coal speech he delivered earlier this year hinted that he might be ready to retire. (Coal is king in the Mountain State and not easily crossed.)

Capito, the daughter of former Gov. Arch Moore, has generally cultivated a profile which has placed her in the left-most quadrant of the congressional GOP, and she's not the type of Republican pol who's likely to embarrass herself or her party. It's easy to imagine she's making such an early announcement in order to push Rockefeller into retirement, but I could also believe she's trying to ward off a tea party-fueled assault from the right in her own primary. Indeed, the Club for Growth is already out with a statement banging Capito, accusing her of having "a long record of support of bailouts, pork, and bigger government."

(And in 2011, conservative businessman Bill Maloney upset former SoS Betty Ireland, the establishment pick, for the GOP nod in the special gubernatorial election. Maloney's better-than-expected performance both in that race and his subsequent rematch attempt this year might make him interested in another bid for office.)

But where does this leave Rockefeller? An August poll from R.L. Repass & Partners actually found him trailing Capito 48-44 in what was at the time a hypothetical matchup. But Repass, which used an odd combination of live and online respondents, didn't perform particularly well this cycle—the same poll, for instance, had Democrat Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin up 21 points in a race he barely won by five. That suggests the survey may have been too pro-Democrat, but on the flipside, Repass was looking at likely 2012 voters. In 2014, Obama won't be at the top of the ticket, so anti-POTUS sentiment will provide less fuel for Republicans.

Rockefeller and the DSCC are obviously conducting their own polling (which we'll likely never see), and that, not anything from Repass, will inform his decision. His age, his health, and his desire to fight a bruising campaign will also presumably play a role. But while on paper Rocky, as the incumbent, has to be considered the Democrats' best hope for holding this seat, I'm also concerned that his remarks about coal could be used to make him radioactive through a harsh and sustained negative campaign. So it's possible that a replacement candidate might, in the end, fare better. Who could that be?

Despite West Virginia's hard-right turn of late, there are still tons of Democratic elected officials in the state, many of whom might be interested in moving up. At the top of the list is probably ex-Sen. Carte Goodwin, who, as an appointee, briefly served out the final months of the late Robert Byrd's term in 2010. Other possibilities include WV-03 Rep. Nick Rahall (though he barely hung on this year with under 54 percent), state House Speaker Rick Thompson, and perhaps even ex-Gov. Bob Wise. (I'd guess Tomblin, having run in two elections for governor in two straight years, probably isn't interested.) Undoubtedly, if Rockefeller steps down (or dithers), many more names will emerge.

Capito's move also makes WV-02 the first official House open seat of the 2014 cycle. While she was the first Republican to win a congressional race in West Virginia since 1983 when she was first elected in 2000, the 2nd District now, oddly, appears to be the most Democrat-friendly of the state's three seats, at least judging by 2012 presidential returns. But at 60 percent Romney, it's certainly not welcome turf, though a local pol with the right profile could make a serious go at flipping this seat. As always, we'll be following all future developments, both at the Senate and House levels, very closely.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'd take her over Joe Manchin, that's for sure. (0+ / 0-)

    I won't rehash the pissing-into-the-tent argument again.

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:46:00 AM PST

    •  I'm not sure I agree. (5+ / 0-)

      What you've got to remember about Joe is that he's as ambitious as Lucifer -- and almost as trustworthy. Joe will always do whatever best promotes the urgent interests of Joe. This could make him available to reason, given  sufficient Persuasion.

      Shelly is more of a traditional country-club Republican. She won't make waves, but she WILL follow whatever orders she gets from the hierarchy. She is of, by, and for the 1% at all times.

      So that's an erratic, maybe yes and maybe no blue dog against a solid GOP corporate shill.

  •  Wither West Virginia? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wv voice of reason

    West Virginia was one of five states Carter carried in 1980 against Reagan (Reagan even carried Massacusetts) and one of ten states Dukakis carried against Bush I in 1988 (Bush I even carried Conneticut and Maryland - both Democrats lost California).  

    No other state has gone so far from deep blue to deep red, nor, I think, the other way around.  Possibly California, but California has undergone the demographic change we keep waiting for in Texas, West Virginia has not.

    "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

    by Navy Vet Terp on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:52:32 AM PST

    •  Navy Vet Terp (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Navy Vet Terp, Andrew F Cockburn

      West Virginia has followed the white vote nationally and sense demographically it is 97 percent white it has become red at the presidential level. It's a sign of how weak and corrupt the state GOP is that it has taken them so long to make in-roads at the state level.

      Rockefeller was likely to retire to spend time with his wife and family and though it sounds counterintuitive Capito's announcement makes me slightly more inclined to think he'll run (though I wouldn't bet on it).

      Capito is the best positioned among Republicans because she's helped assure any potential challengers in the GOP are chopped down. Some believe she maneuvered behind the scenes to take out Ireland. Ireland was never the establishment GOP's pick because Ireland was a potential rival to Capito for this seat.

      Here's a link to some background here and here.

      In WV-02, the Democrats have several names to watch for including Senator Byrd's former right hand Anne Barth, who ran unsuccessfully against Capito, and the Rod Snyder, the outgoing president of the Young Democrats of America, who would be a fundraising and canvassing machine, though I don't know if he is ready to throw his hat in the ring this soon for this seat.

      The Republicans have a long list, but one to worry about is newly elected state Sen. Craig Blair, who is a true teabagger and doesn't carry the loser baggage of Maloney or Raese.

      Senator Byrd challenged coal and won. Rockefeller has never had the same love from the people that Byrd had though.

      There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact. S. Holmes

      by Carnacki on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 10:11:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not the White vote nationally (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Navy Vet Terp

        but the White vote regionally.

        In New England, many of the White folk are Democrats (Obama did win the whole region, and the region has very few non-Whites).

        In the northern great plains, the White vote is split.

        In the south and Appalachia, the White folk have switched over time from solid Democrat to solid Republican.

        •  plf515 (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Navy Vet Terp

          Except for a handful of states, the white vote nationally went Romneyby large margin.

          If only white people had voted on Tuesday, Mitt Romney would have carried every state except for Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut and New Hampshire, according to the news media’s exit polls. Nationally, Romney won 59 percent of the white vote, a towering twenty-point margin over Obama. (Exit polls were canceled in nineteen states by the consortium of news media that run them.)

          The pattern is not limited to the South, with its history of racism and segregation. Even in the deepest blue states, white voters went for Romney: 53 percent in California, 52 percent in New York, 55 percent in Pennsylvania.

          Liberals hoped that whites who opposed Obama in 2008 would learn toleration and acceptance of racial difference after four years with a black president in the White House. But what happened was the opposite: Romney won 4 percent more of the white vote in 2012 than John McCain won in 2008.

          There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact. S. Holmes

          by Carnacki on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 10:20:12 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I'm afraid we are going to have (3+ / 0-)

    to write off WV, barring some minor miracles. Even if Rocky runs, eventually he won't, and my bet is the Dems will be looking at the next Arkansas in WV . . .

    "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

    by bryduck on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:53:01 AM PST

    •  No (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pistolSO

      I am betting that WV will become the next Nevada, or Indianan. Capito will get tea bagged and we will all be happier for it.

      We only think nothing goes without saying.

      by Hamtree on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 10:38:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Have you seen the post from (0+ / 0-)

        earlier? WV is getting redder by the minute. Nevada, for example, is getting bluer. Indiana? Who knows what those people are up to!

        "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

        by bryduck on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 11:13:07 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Democrats face sad future in WV (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    prfb, Aquarius40, Navy Vet Terp

    Bob Wise is toxic. He was so tainted by an affair with a state employee he decided not to run for re-election as governor in 2004.

    Goodwin is too young and unestablished.

    I think Rockefeller is the Democrats best hope to retain the seat. He's an established figure with tons of money.

    The sad truth is that West Virginia is evolving to the same status as Deep South states like Mississippi and Alabama... very Democrat unfriendly territory. The realignment just took much longer than is those formerly core Democratic states... It used to be more midwestern like Ohio and Pennsylvania but it has become part of the Deep South.

    Obama-Biden in 2012: four more years!

    by Frederik on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:54:57 AM PST

  •  Capito pic (0+ / 0-)

    Thanks for posting the pic of Ms. Shelley "I may talk like a moderate now but wait til the teabaggers get hold of my sorry ass" Capito. Now I know what Denis Leary looks like in drag

  •  Yeah, keep us posted. (5+ / 0-)

    Living in the WV 2nd district has made me pretty cynical: I can't see how any possible outcome of this situation will be anything but a gain for the teabag/coal company Axis of Evil, given the current local zeitgeist.

    I disagreed with Rockefeller often enough, but ultimately he had what it takes to tell the AoE to piss up a rope.

    Moore-Capito is a company soul, bought and paid for. A sure-thing Republican party-line vote.

  •  Count Chocula, President of Club for Growth (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wdrath

    recently wrote an unapologetic editorial regarding this last electoral cycle saying that the problem was not that too conservative candidates were run but rather that too moderate candidates were run on the Republican side.

    He wrote it for the Kansas City Star but then cross posted it at Redstate.

    If Club for Growth is already going after Capito can it be that this will be 2014's Missouri or Indiana? A seat we should write off but end up winning due to the actions of the Republican far right?

    Chocola makes a point that Club for Growth did not support Akin or O'Donnell and seems to draw a line that there is the crazy far right and the incompetent Washington insiders and then there are the wise souls at CfG. In some ways the editorial reads like one many of us on the left have written against Washington insiders on the democratic side but I can't help but smile when I think of intra-party battles on the Republican side continuing when it comes to Senate seats. Popcorn futures are looking up!

    "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

    by Andrew C White on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 10:01:15 AM PST

  •  Not so much as trending GOP as simply racist (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mph2005, Andrew F Cockburn

    While WV is definitely trending GOP, it's not as bad as Obama's vote % would indicate.  The fact of the matter is that WV is one of the most racist states in country.  A white Democrat can win there.  Black Democrats have no chance.  

    Trust-Fund Kids of America Unite... save the Bush tax cuts!

    by JCPOK on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 10:01:17 AM PST

    •  A bit of both (0+ / 0-)

      WV POTUS vote: Proportion of 2 party vote for the Democrat (thus eliminating 3rd party effect0


      Year   WV     National
      1988   0.52     0.46
      1992   0.58     0.46
      1996   0.58     0.54
      2000   0.47     0.50
      2004   0.44     0.48
      2008   0.43     0.54
      2012   0.36     0.51

      So, it's been getting more Republican for a while and that accelerated when Obama was running

    •  that's what occurs to me... (0+ / 0-)

      ...unlike Arkansas, West Virginia, while conservative, still is predominantly Democratic, with the governor, both U.S. Senators and two of three Democratic representatives.

      ...in fact, if memory serves correctly, West Virginia went big for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary (and, my guess is that she'd have a good chance of actually winning the state in a general election campaign, as well).

  •  This is going to be rather interesting to watch (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wdrath, Andrew F Cockburn

    So many factors in play here, from the possibilty of a primary battle for Capito to Rockerfeller's potential retirement to who might step up to the plate for the Democrats if he does. Defintely one to keep an eye on.

    The good news is the Dems have a pretty good bench in WV and do well in statewide races (it's at the Presidential level where things have grown dismal for the Dems and that I feel unfortunately has much to do with Obama). So this is a tossup at worst, regardless of whether Rockerfeller or anyone else runs.

  •  "barely hung on with under 54%"? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew F Cockburn

    I can think of a recent national candidate who is regarded as triumphing with less than 54%.

  •  Capito is pro-choice which may hurt her (3+ / 0-)

    The extremists of the Family Policy Council refuse to endorse her. They will do their best to keep Fundies from voting in 2014. This may work out to Rockefeller's advantage. Furthermore, Rockefeller is far more popular than even Joe Manchin in the Northern Panhandle. Though the Northern Panhandle has been trending red in national races, Rockefeller will probably outperform the average Democrat in the Northern Panhandle. It may make the difference.

    Capito is not popular in Monongalia County, and the Eastern Panhandle is trending blue. I think this race will be much tougher for Capito than the national analysts realize.

  •  Can a pro-choice nonbirther candidate (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew F Cockburn, pistolSO

    win a rethuglican primary?



    Those who do not move, do not notice their chains. Rosa Luxemburg

    by chuckvw on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 10:22:41 AM PST

  •  Anyone following this race knew that Shelly Moore (3+ / 0-)

    Capito was going to gear up for this race.  Thanks for shining some light on that poll.  I hope Rockefeller runs because he's the only politician from WV to speak out about the coal company campaign of propaganda.  He can fund his own campaign but I look forward to the DSCC's polling and his decision.  I hope he runs again but I also hope we'll find a decent replacement if he does retire.

  •  she could primaried (0+ / 0-)

    She isn't a total  nut job but I think only a Joe Manchin democrat can win a federal office in WV. Rahall is lucky he still hangs on.
    Until Obama is gone WV is lost to democrats, the racial and cultural differences  with having a black president is to much for the average WV democrat.
    I have some property there and know the state. Racism is alive and well there. Obama lost every county in the state this time around. Capito can not be to anti labor if she wants to win though.

    •  Kerry and Gore (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wv voice of reason

      I think WV is lost post Obama for the long run as well. And it's not as if Obama was the first Democratic presidential candidate to lose the state: Kerry ('04) and Gore ('00) had the bad luck to preceed him in doing that. That realigment was a long time coming.

      Obama-Biden in 2012: four more years!

      by Frederik on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 11:37:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  If Rockefeller runs, he could beat her. (0+ / 0-)

    If he doesn't, maybe a anti-choice Dem could beat her.  

    I think this is more strategic planning for now - GOP want to scare Rockefeller to move right - but they might scare him into retirement in which he can move left.  

    They have the billionaires, We have the Big Dog!

    by Jacoby Jonze on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 10:50:32 AM PST

  •  The importance of coal to Republican (0+ / 0-)

    prospects means that the earth's climate is going to continue to suffer from this worst of all greenhouse gas emitters long past the time it should. Republicanism is a tragedy for the planet.

  •  What happened to Carte Goodwin? (0+ / 0-)

    I seem to remember when he was appointed by Machin to fill out Byrd's term that he was thought to be a significant rising star of the WV Democratic "bench."

    Just because the GOP is touting Capito as "probably insurmountable" doesn't mean we ought to lay down and die on this seat.

    When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Egalitare on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 11:18:16 AM PST

  •  When do we start our activism? (0+ / 0-)

    Surely people-to-people contacts do the most to win over voters.

    I'd even be donating money if necessary, and if I had better expert guidance.

  •  Capito (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew F Cockburn

    Shelley has problems with the far right:  since being elected, she has often been allowed the last vote...voted with R leadership if the vote was necessary, voted against if measure would pass without her vote.  She did vote with the Ryan budget to voucherize Medicare, and always voted for the Bush tax cuts, but is a somewhat pro-choice Republican.  She also has ethical problems, as her broker husband made big money on Wall Street from her inside information.  There was also being on the page supervisory committee during the Mark Foley episode.

    Jay probably won't run again, mainly because of health reasons.

  •  Not a pollyana, but... (0+ / 0-)

    I remember the consternation that we felt when Conrad of North Dakota resigned...

    Stranger things have happened.

    What separates us, divides us, and diminishes the human spirit.

    by equern on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 01:53:44 PM PST

  •  I am hoping that Natalie Tennant runs. (0+ / 0-)

    She is the Secretary of State, just reelected with more votes than Manchin. She is a middle of the road Democrat, which is the best we can get elected in WV.

  •  I can only say, (0+ / 0-)

    "Non ho capito".

    I'm part of the "bedwetting bunch of website Democrat base people (DKos)." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/16/2012 Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

    by tom 47 on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 04:30:43 PM PST

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