Breaking: Jay Rockefeller to retire in 2014

posted at 9:52 am on January 11, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

It didn’t take long for the first retirement of the 2014 election cycle to occur.  Jay Rockefeller, who has won five Senate elections in West Virginia but seen his state turn deeply conservative, will announce today that 30 years is enough:

Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller will not run for reelection in 2014, passing up a bid for a sixth term and putting in play a Senate seat in deep red West Virginia.

In an interview with POLITICO, Rockefeller — the chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and one of the most senior Senate Democrats — said he had been wrestling with the question of whether to run again since October but had not made up his mind to retire until very recently.

“I’m going to serve out my term,” the 75-year-old Rockefeller said. “It was a very hard decision for me. Once it’s made, like any hard decision, it eases up. But it was a very tough decision for me.”

Rockefeller is scheduled to make a formal announcement at 11 a.m. back home in West Virginia.

Rockefeller said he decided to go public with his retirement now — one that is sure to shake up the 2014 Senate landscape — because it felt like the right move and because he didn’t want months of public speculation over his political future.

Just a few hours earlier, Roll Call wrote a lengthy analysis that explains why Rockefeller decided to retire at the relatively young age of 75 … at least in the Senate:

Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s close ties to President Barack Obama could end his Senate career — should the West Virginia Democrat choose to run for re-election in 2014.

Rockefeller hasn’t had a close race in 30 years. But his strong support for Obama’s agenda in a state where the president remains deeply unpopular, combined with Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito’s decision to run for Senate, could prove enough to undermine the political career of a Democratic icon who has endured even as West Virginia has grown more and more conservative.

“There’s been no doubt on his absolute support of Barack Obama,” West Virginia GOP Chairman Conrad Lucas said, explaining why this race would be different from previous Republican Senate bids.

Rockefeller won his first Senate contest in 1984 with 52 percent of the vote and has won every race since with at least 63 percent. And with a stranglehold on the governor’s mansion and the Legislature, the West Virginia Democratic Party remains more powerful than its Republican counterpart.

But the Mountain State hasn’t voted Democrat for president since 1996, and unlike popular Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, a recent former governor who was first sent to Capitol Hill in 2010, Rockefeller has a long and politically troublesome Washington voting record that Republicans can use against him. He has been a strong supporter of the health care overhaul, to name one major component of Obama’s agenda derided by West Virginians.

It would be different because of the competition, too.  Moore Capito has a lot more experience in running for office in West Virginia than previous candidates.  She may not be a Tea Party darling — at least not yet — but she has been an effective campaigner in the state.  It certainly seems to have provided the impetus to drive Rockefeller into retirement in a state that kept re-electing Robert Byrd even when it became clear he wasn’t up to the task.

This may not be all bad news for the White House, however.  They were likely to lose the seat in the midterms, and it’s probably certain now that they will.  But this means that Rockefeller doesn’t have to spend the next two years looking over his shoulder and shifting to the right to protect his seat.  For the next two years, Rockefeller can vote without any accountability to the more conservative voters in West Virginia.  The good news for Republicans won’t come until 2015 at the earliest.

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Comment pages: 1 2

Why don’t you go teach your grandmother to suck eggs you fking nitwit.

tom daschle concerned on January 11, 2013 at 11:47 AM

LOL … Class Act.
Are you a Canuck too? Why don’t you and your girlfriend post on Canadian sites?
Your moniker says it all, Tommy Boy.

Karl Magnus on January 11, 2013 at 12:43 PM

Would it be proper time to remind the people outside West Virginia, particularly school children, which organization the other Democrat Senator (RIP) used to represent?

Archivarix on January 11, 2013 at 12:43 PM

Breaking: Jay Rockefeller to retire in 2014

Jesus H. Christ, My Christmas present came a few weeks late!

I guess it is asking too much for him to take Boxer with
him as a twofer….

ToddPA on January 11, 2013 at 12:56 PM

Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller will not run for reelection in 2014, passing up a bid for a sixth term and putting in play a Senate seat in deep red West Virginia.

How is West Virginia deep red? It has had a Democrat Governor for decades, and Democrat Joe Manchin won a special election to finish Robert Byrd’s Senate term, and also won re-election to a full Senate term this year. Democrats also control two of West Virginia’s three House seats.

West Virginia has only been red on the Presidential level since 2000. The state is heavily invested in the coal industry, which favored George W. Bush’s energy policy and opposed Obama’s “war on coal”. But coal miners are heavily unionized, and will tend to support Democrats in non-Presidential elections, if they are not hostile to the coal industry.

Rockefeller’s retirement may be a pickup opportunity in 2014, but many people thought Byron Dorgan’s retirement this year would give Republicans a pickup in ND, but Democrat Heidi Heitkamp won the Senate seat despite North Dakota’s voting for Republican Presidential candidates for decades.

Steve Z on January 11, 2013 at 1:51 PM

A few thoughts from recollection – no fact checking on a Friday afternoon!
1. Capito is the most popular and recognizable Repub in WV.
2. She is pro-choice. Her district includes Charleston, likely the least conservative area in the state.
3. WV just elected a Repub attorney general and Supreme Court justice ( who was relatively unknown). They also just elected more Repubs to the House than have been there since the 1920S or 30s. The state does seem to be trending Red. The folks who vote for Dems come Hell or high water are literally dying off every day.
4. Rockefeller may have won, but it would not have been easy. He would have had to hit the campaign trail. His looks show his age – not sure he could have handled it.

humdinger on January 11, 2013 at 2:04 PM

This is a test for the NRSC

Illinidiva on January 11, 2013 at 10:03 AM
You bet, and it shouldn’t be a particularly hard one. But after losing in North Dakota, Missouri, Montana etc, no bar is too low.

First step would be to stop trying to blame the Tea Party for their own failures and take an honest accounting of why they keep losing so many winnable seats in conservative states.

forest on January 11, 2013 at 10:07 AM

Too many so-called Tea Party candidates have lost winnable Senate races, not only in 2012 (ND, IN, MO, MT) but also in 2010 (NV, CO, DE).

Having “political outsiders” run for House seats might bring some fresh conservative thinking into Congress, but Senate candidates should have some political experience, including winning general elections. It would be helpful if Senate candidates were former statewide office-holders (Governors, state treasurers, Attorneys General, etc.) or at least former House members, who know how to win elections and avoid gaffes that lose them.

Another problem frequently encountered in Senate elections is having a candidate win a Republican primary among several candidates with only 35 or 40% of the Republican vote, most of which is in more-conservative rural areas. But in states with large, Democrat-heavy cities, it’s the suburbs that win or lose elections, and suburban voters tend to be less conservative than rural voters, and might vote for a Democrat over a Tea Party candidate.

We need candidates who can win suburban voters, and one way of ensuring that the eventual Republican nominee has broad support is to use two-round primaries, where the top two vote-getters in the first round compete in a runoff a few weeks after the first round. This would ensure that the eventual nominee has majority support among Republican voters, and would also allow time for candidates with foot-in-mouth disease to make their fatal gaffes BEFORE becoming the Republican nominee.

Steve Z on January 11, 2013 at 2:17 PM

Not a bad idea :)… I am now convinced that the stupid rape and abortion disaster comments with the Republican senate candidates in Missouri (Akin) and Indiana (Murdoch) may have cost us more than these two seats… It may have cost Romney the the swing states of Ohio, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, and Colorado and hence the elections… It has also cost us Senate seats in other Republican states that were easily winnable….

mnjg on January 11, 2013 at 10:10 AM

You’re probably right, since Akin’s and Mourdoch’s stupid comments were broadcast on national media, and low-information voters were told that “Republicans” believe that rape victims must be forced to keep pregnancies due to rape, even though Romney never mentioned anything about rape. Voters in Indiana and Missouri knew the difference, supporting Romney while voting for Democrats over Akin and Mourdoch, but what about urban women in swing states?

Women who live in crime-ridden urban areas probably fear being raped, even those who have never been raped, who may know a rape victim. Rape is a very traumatic experience, and a woman being forced to carry a child conceived by rape would be a months-long reminder of the rapist himself and the horror she endured. So if an urban woman hears that “Republicans” want to force her to bear the child of a rapist, she will tend to vote Democrat, even though Romney never mentioned the issue.

Pro-life political candidates should be willing to make an exception and allow abortion in cases of rape and incest, which account for a small fraction of all aborted pregnancies. If a proof of rape or incest was required to obtain an abortion, single women who became pregnant through consensual sex may hesitate to accuse their boyfriends of rape, and such a law may also cause men to become more cautious about sex, out of fear of being accused of rape if their girlfriends become pregnant.

Politically, only about 30% of voters support banning all abortions, but there is about 60% support for a law banning abortions except in cases of rape and incest (or a pregnancy which threatens the life of the mother). If a political candidate supports a law banning abortions except for rape and incest, he/she has a much better chance of being elected, and such a law would save well over 90% of the babies now lost to abortion.

Steve Z on January 11, 2013 at 2:45 PM

Weasels rejoice. He’ll join you in the creche, in Depends.

Schadenfreude on January 11, 2013 at 3:16 PM

It would be far more therapeutic if the rape victim could attend the rapists hanging. At one time we did not tolerate crime against women. Feminism sure did advance women, nicht wahr?

As for Jay, good riddance to bad rubbish. Just another northeast libtard that went south and wanted to help the poor beknighted souls he found down south.

Quartermaster on January 11, 2013 at 5:44 PM

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