A GOP "dam ready to break" in West Virginia

Democrats in West Virginia have pretty much taken their two Senate seats for granted for a long time now. (And with good reason, since the last time the GOP held those spots, Ike was still president.) They’ve also had a fair bit of success in hanging on to at least some of their three congressional seats in the modern era. This stands in contrast to a seemingly constant ideological shift to the right among voters, demonstrated by the fact that no Democrat presidential candidate has carried the state since Bill Clinton. This shift may be setting the stage for some very interesting events in the 2014 cycle, with the retirement of Senator Jay Rockefeller and two spirited House races shifting into high gear. Specifically in WV-02, Roll Call recently rated that contest on their list of the most fascinating races to watch.

For some reason, they seem to think this is good news for Democrats, but the district still leans Red and the Dems have hooked their wagon to Nick Casey. Casey looks like a terrible choice, given the current frame of mind of West Virginia’s voters. He’s a former lobbyist for progressive groups such as FarinessWV.org and is well known to voters from his time as the incendiary chairman of the state Democratic Party. His long standing support for the President, Obamacare, gun control and a raft of other liberal touchstones doesn’t seem as if it will play well with the more socially conservative base in his district. Further, he’s sharing a media market with the 3rd district and may have a negative impact on their Democratic candidate, Nick Rahall.

In terms of filling the Senate seat, even the Paper of Record is seeing some hard times coming for the Democrats this time around

An accelerating rightward tilt here was reflected recently in an awkward two-step by the Democratic nominee for an open seat, Natalie Tennant, as she distanced herself from the White House after a fund-raising trip to New York.

In a Sheraton ballroom, Ms. Tennant, West Virginia’s secretary of state, listened to Michelle Obama urge donors to write “a big old fat check” to her and other women running for the Senate.

But back home, where President Obama is deeply unpopular, Ms. Tennant’s campaign quickly sought to wriggle out of the embrace of the White House, insisting to the local news media that “what the first lady said is not an endorsement.”

Running away from an endorsement by the First Lady is one thing, but this little slip of the lip about her husband was a doozy.

In an interview, Ms. Tennant even seemed to downgrade the president’s title. “I don’t answer to Senator Obama,” she said. “I answer to the people of West Virginia.” (A spokeswoman later said that was an unintentional slip of the tongue.)

Charleston Democrat leaders are already tossing out statements saying that the GOP can’t “run against Obama” in these races, and if voters want to vote against the President they should, “wait until he runs for school board in Illinois.” It’s obvious at this point that the entire Democrat Party in West Virginia is in full speed retreat away from Barack Obama and all things related to him, but it’s going to be hard for their candidates to erase their combined records of previous support.

West Virginia would be an excellent pick-up opportunity in the GOP’s efforts to take the Senate majority next fall, and solidifying their hold on their House seats would just be icing on the cake. Only a year or so ago I’d have not even listed this race on the radar, but it’s looking extremely competitive now.