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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dems Now Have Good Chance to Hold WV Senate Seat

Democrats have improved their prospects for holding their Senate majority, with the entry of a solid candidate into the WV senate race for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller. In their post, “Tennant Moves the Needle in West Virginia,” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley, two of the more astute election-watchers, explain:

…Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) will reportedly enter the contest Tuesday morning. Her entry, which has been rumored for months, gives Democrats a credible opponent for Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R, WV-2), the likely Republican nominee. We are changing the rating in this race from Likely Republican to LEANS REPUBLICAN. With a successful statewide elected official now running, Democrats have kept the race on the competitive board, but it would still be a significant surprise if Republicans fumbled away one of their best pickup opportunities in the country.
…After graduating from West Virginia University in 1991…Tennant spent many years as a TV reporter and anchor in Charleston and Clarksburg. She was comfortably elected and reelected as secretary of state in 2008 and 2012, respectively, and this will be the second time she’s run for office “from safety” in the middle of her term in office. In running an uphill Senate race, Tennant is risking a third statewide defeat: She lost the Democratic nomination for secretary of state in 2004, and in 2011 she finished third in a special Democratic primary election for governor.

Skelley and Kondik caution that the likely GOP opponent, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, is seasoned and well-connected and the state GOP is only slightly divided by tea party factions. They rate Capito the favorite to win in a state that has been trending Republican in recent years. However, Capito has a problematic track record, which raises questions about her credibility and inconsistency.
It won’t be a cakewalk against Tennant, a media-savvy Democrat who has won statewide elections on two occasions and has an intimate knowledge of state voting patterns, as a Secretary of State. Those who read up on Tennant’s salt-of-the-earth narrative won’t have much trouble envisioning an upset win.
The writers also review the GOP’s prospects for a U.S. Senate takeover, which contains a lot of dicey “ifs,” and conclude:

Democrats remain small favorites to hold the Senate, but control of the chamber is very much in play. Ultimately, Tennant’s entry in the race might not be enough to keep Capito from ascending to the Upper Chamber, but it could tie down Republican resources that might be better used in some of these other contests. That’s important in a cycle where Democrats are largely playing defense.

Tennant does not yet have an ActBlue page, but those who want to help should visit her well-designed campaign web page.

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