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W.Va. Gov. Joe Manchin launches Senate campaign; Capito on deck

By Aaron Blake

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced Tuesday that he will run in the newly created special election for the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd's (D-W.Va.) Senate seat. Now all eyes or on Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).

A little more than 12 hours after signing the special election change into law, Manchin confirmed that he will seek the final two years of Byrd's term. He enters the race as the odds-on favorite, regardless of who Republicans nominate.

Despite indicating early on that he was likely to run for the seat, Manchin said at a news conference that he labored over the decision. Winning would require him to yield the final two years of his second and final term as governor.

"This is one of the toughest decisions I've ever made," Manchin said. "I've always had a desire to serve at the highest level."

The spin wars between the two national campaign committees began almost immediately.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) praised Manchin's "record of job-creation and fiscal responsibility; the National Republican Senatorial Committee hammered Manchin for breaking his pledge to serve out his gubernatorial term.

After much wrangling through the weekend, state legislators agreed to a compromise special election bill late Monday. Republicans, who are in the minority in the chamber, won a key concession allowing Capito, the party's favored potential Senate candidate, to run at the same time in both the special election and for reelection in her 2nd district House district.

Such a setup makes it much more likely that she will seek the upper chamber, but a Capito spokesman said she will not announce her plans today but certainly made it sound as though she is running.

"Congresswoman Capito will announce her decision soon after determining how she can best continue to serve West Virginia on important issues like protecting the state's vital energy industry, where she has been the loudest and sometimes only critic of the Obama administration's assault on coal," Capito spokesman Kent Gates said.

Candidates were allowed to file for the special election starting at 8:30 a.m., and the shortened window for the November special election means the pressure is on Capito to make a decision in short order.

Even if Capito runs, the very popular Manchin enters the race as the favorite. Recent polls have pegged his approval rating in the 70s, and the governor has taken care over the years to establish his independence from the national Democratic Party in several ways. (He is a favorite of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, for example.)

But Capito comes from a well-known West Virginia political family (her father was a three-term governor), and she's got a $500,000 head start on Manchin thanks to the funds already in her House campaign committee.

With President Obama highly unpopular in West Virginia, Republicans have already begun attaching the governor to the president and the national Democratic agenda on issues such as cap and trade -- a very unpopular proposition in coal-reliant West Virginia.

Manchin said in a subsequent interview with radio host Hoppy Kercheval -- the king of West Virginia politics -- that he has lined up the "unequivocal" support of both the Chamber of Commerce and major labor groups, which have both been his allies in the past.

Speaking to Kercheval, Manchin acknowledged that he "probably will" be at odds with national Democrats on many issues.

Capito has taken aim at Manchin for the confusion over when the special election would be held, accusing him of molding the race to suit his political aspirations. Democratic leaders in the state disagreed about when the law allowed for a special election, and Manchin eventually lobbied to have it in 2010 rather than 2012.

"It is apparent that many elected officials, and particularly the person ultimately charged with calling a special election, have been more focused on political maneuvers to further their own political ambitions before fulfilling the obligations of their office on behalf of the people they were elected to serve," Capito said when Manchin temporarily appointed former aide Carte Goodwin to the seat last week.

Goodwin will serve until November, when the winner of the special election will assume the seat.

The primaries will be held Aug. 28, with the winners meeting on regular Election Day, Nov. 2.

By Aaron Blake  |  July 20, 2010; 11:09 AM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Governor Manchin has ignored the health and property rights of WV residents; damaged our environment; and defiled our state Supreme Court, Public Service Commission, and University. The coal industry has gained from our losses and from Manchin's tenure in office. A positive aspect of Manchin's Senate run is the fact that it will likely result in his spending more time out of our state. Perhaps the brighter lights of Washington D.C. will lead him to a moral compass or out of a position of public responsibility. See,,,,

Posted by: wvmet | July 21, 2010 1:07 AM | Report abuse

Capito is like 20 points behind him and Manchin is extremely popular.

He'll win.

Posted by: drindl | July 20, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

What ever happened to pay as you go which the democrats agreed to? Why increase the deficit when Obama still has 350 billion left over from the stimulus package. When you have the money, which we do, send the unemployed a check.

Posted by: farmsnorton | July 20, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

hfed, that's an interesting think you just thought.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | July 20, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Obama's Tailspinning Approval at 28% in Arizona

It looks like the race-based strategy of siding with Mexico against his own country isn't paying off for the Manchurian Moonbat. The percentage of Arizonans who are Hispanic (over 30%) is higher than the percentage who approve of our tragicomic excuse for a president (28%).

Meanwhile, the rest of the country is catching up. Nationally, BHO's approval is at 43% and dropping like a rock. People are figuring out that it takes more to qualify as POTUS than trendy ethnicity, a red diaper upbringing, and a name like a terrorist.

Posted by: Dead_and_Barryd | July 20, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

In many areas of the country, the political machine of days of yore are dead.. in WV, they just increased the lubricity on the old machine and it runs better than new.

Posted by: newbeeboy | July 20, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

What happens if SMC runs and wins both seats? In this senario, Manchin is defeated so I assume he remains Governor and I assume SMC would take the senate seat. Would Manchin get to appoint the 2nd district representative to replace SMC?

Posted by: hfed | July 20, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

At least Manchin has not made the mistake of the democrats in Massachusetts - where they were perceived as manipulating the election laws.

If they put the election this year, that would be reasonable and right.

Manchin will be a strong candidate - and he is coming off a high-profile year so he is at a strong point.

Capito could win though.

What's up with all these Italian names ? Italian miners ?


Posted by: YouCanPostThis | July 20, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

ddawd writes
"SMC might actually be better served by waiting until 2012 to run. While Manchin will have the advantages of incumbency, he can't possibly be as popular as he is now."

When's the last time Byrd or Rockefeller had a tight race? Seems to me like WV is a place where you have to win one election, then the job is yours until you move on, one way or another.


Posted by: bsimon1 | July 20, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

ddawd, Andy, Reason, and bsimon - we all know that a WV D will oppose carbon tax or cap and trade, just as TX Ds oppose cutting O&G subsidies or Gulf drilling, just as AZ Rs love the National Park System, and MA Ds don't want windmills off Cape Cod. State issues can rule, and in WV I think they will, no matter who wins.

Caveat: I have no knowledge of these candidates save that Manchin makes a forceful appearance on TV, in news snippets.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | July 20, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

A sad day indeed to be WV Democrat. Capito is WV's Palin, and Manchin is no better. These two are just happy they didn't die before Byrd, so they would have the chance. Manchin's career would most likely have been in the toilet once his term ended. Both candidates will disgrace WV in short order. I can't wait for a NATIONAL investigative journalist to expose Manchin's and his daughter's role in the degree scandal at West Virginia University.
Both candidates think they run with the big dogs, when thay are really just weaning pups!

Posted by: KJR1 | July 20, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

why not yield 2 years.
Palin quit her Governorship.

Governors are always wanting to run for House or Senate. I wonder why? Longer terms or they find out that Governor's don't mean jack in the big politics of Wash DC.


Posted by: TheBabeNemo | July 20, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Some people say that SMC might actually be better served by waiting until 2012 to run. While Manchin will have the advantages of incumbency, he can't possibly be as popular as he is now. She might also benefit from being downstream of an anti-Obama surge in the state (while he might have his hands dirty with the Obama agenda)

Posted by: DDAWD | July 20, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

"the NRSC will see to it she has the cash to run a successful campaign."

The NRSC isn't going to waste a dime on this race since Penn, Ohio, California, Kentucky, Florida, NH, etc are all sucking up their free cash.

Posted by: AndyR3 | July 20, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

US Rep. Shelly Capito will run hard in the Senate election & run for reelection to her House seat. We know Capito will win reelection in the 2nd and will crush Manchin the WV 2nd district. In the 3rd WV district, Manchin will win. That leaves the 1st district of WV to likely determine the race. They ousted their democratic congressman and the 1st district could now be a real race, and that puts the US Senate seat in play as well. National Republicans will compete heavily in WV and ensure Capito runs a great campaign. Manchin needs money, and can't fully embrace the left to get it. He's walking a fine line and Capito could well win this seat held by Byrd for ages.

Posted by: reason5 | July 20, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Sorry Bsimon, I didn't see your post before I sent mine. I do think that she needs to be careful and it may be in her benefit to wait for two years, when she can tie President Obama to Manchin more easily.

Posted by: AndyR3 | July 20, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Capito doesn't have much of a race for her congressional seat. She is facing a school principal who was at one time a nun who has no campaign money. Capito will win reelection to congress easily. As for running against Manchin . . . what choice does she have? Everybody knows Capito wants to run for Senate and it turns out the special election will run alongside the regular election. Of course all of this was done to benefit Manchin, but Capito can run for both offices which most likely won't cause her to look like an opportunist. She had no say when the special election would be held while Manchin did. Capito will be able to raise huge sums of money for the Senate race and the NRSC will see to it she has the cash to run a successful campaign. I certainly wouldn't consider Manchin a shoo-in because Capito can beat him especially in a political environment like this. Many West Virginians who don't reside in Capito's congressional district have been waiting for years to vote for her in a statewide campaign. As for Rasmussen . . . a poll released a week or so ago had Manchin up 53--39. I suspect if Capito runs and once she goes on television the race becomes even. Just like her 2000 race for congress. Once she went on television the race was over.

Posted by: juanchin | July 20, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Democrats will now be in the position of backing the candidate from "clean coal" and mountain top removal mining. You just can't make this stuff up.

Posted by: slim2 | July 20, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Jeremybozz brings up a good point.
Also if she runs for the senate too, it will give her Democratic challenger a window to attack her as someone who can't make up her mind. Plus how many people will vote for Manchin for Senate and then turn around and vote for Capito for the house. I have never liked when politicians run for two offices at the sametime. If you want to be a senator than throw your hat in and come what may.

Posted by: AndyR3 | July 20, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

"Right" Angle is going down!

Bye bye, nutbag freakazoid loony-tunes creep hag.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | July 20, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like Manchin won't step down from Gov in order to run for Senate. Will that damage him among the electorate? Or, on the flip side, will Capito retain her seat in the House and run for both reelection and in the Senate special election - and thus expose herself to the opportunism charge? If Capito runs for both her current seat & the senate, does that create a plausible pickup opportunity for Dems to take her current seat?

Posted by: bsimon1 | July 20, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

If Capito runs for the House and Senate at the same time she would have to have separate committees.
That $500,000 would remain as money for her House bid.

Posted by: jeremybozz | July 20, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Ah, the Jim Wright exception. This should be an interesting election. I'm sure Rasmussen has Capito up by 20 points.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | July 20, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

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