Friday, March 13, 2015

Thank you, Natalie Tennant, for destroying the West Virginia Democratic Party

West Virginia Republicans should give Democrat Natalie Tennant a big hug and a smooch for helping them end 80-plus years of Democratic Party domination of the Legislature. Oh, she is bitterly partisan as Secretary of State. But that is part of her charm. All she had to do in 2014 is run a clean campaign for the U.S. Senate, take her lumps like a lady, and she would be leading the governor's race for 2016, which is the job she really wanted.

Instead, she foolishly made bogus attacks on Republican Shelley Moore Capito, a popular and dignified public servant. The result was a Bob Byrd-sized victory for Capito. According to Wikipedia, "The 34.5 percent won by Tennant was the lowest ever by a Democrat nominee across the 38 U.S. Senate races in West Virginia history."

That dragged the ticket down. Way down. Republicans had their best day in the state since 1928. And now Senator Joe Manchin will have to run for governor next year to keep the Democratic Party from hemorrhaging more. That's a gamble that could cost Democrats another Senate seat regardless of whether Manchin wins or loses next year.

But maybe Manchin was happier as governor, so we shall see.

What I do know is Republican Congressman David McKinley wants to be governor. He has made the rounds over the years with media outside his northern district. He was House minority leader back in the old days when Donna Boley was the only Republican in the state Senate (a petunia surrounded by 33 onions). Other names will surface but a Manchin-McKinley at this point looks likely -- more than a year before the primary.

The other two Republican Congressman -- Alex Xavier Mooney and Evan Jenkins -- are rookies and young enough (43 and 54 respectively) to hang in there and move up in leadership.

But Mooney went from a Maryland Republican legislator to a West Virginia Republican congressman quickly. He barely nudged out Democrat Nick Casey, who had the backing of the Republican Old Guard. Tennant's historically poor Senate race likely swung the vote to Mooney. How ironic. Their help for Capito cost their man Casey his shot.

I am thinking Mooney sees a shot at the Senate. Should Manchin win, the race will be in 2017. If not, Mooney can take on Manchin directly in 2018.

As for Natalie Tennant, she did such a bad job as a Senate candidate that she cost her husband his gig in the state Senate. He lost his re-election bid. I expect Republicans to target her; they have a deep bench now and plenty of delegates and state senators would like the gig. House Clerk Steve Harrison would be perfect for the job.

I suspect Democrats will primary her. Tim Manchin could follow the family tradition and become the third Secretary of State Manchin.

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