Sunday, July 31, 2005

NRSC Has an Ad, Still Needs a Viable Candidate

Robert C. Byrd Center for insert name here

As you know, the NRSC launched its first ad of the 2006 campaign Friday here in West Virginia against Senator Byrd. You can view the ad by clicking here. The ad is a good first ad and discusses a couple of issues very intelligently and respectfully. However, there's just one ingredient missing: Who is running against Byrd that could actually beat him?

Now, I know that Hiram Lewis and maybe a couple of other people have announced their candidacies for this seat. I know Hiram and like him, but in all honesty, he has about the same chance of defeating Senator Byrd as I have for setting a new world record in the 100 meter dash--or any running contest for that matter. But the sad truth is that our party's fate in the 2006 Senate contest here in West Virginia lies in the hands of one woman: Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito (campaign site).

Senator ByrdWill it happen?Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito

The speculation has run rampant for months and the polls have shown that a Byrd-Capito contest is now a dead heat (not bad for a challenger to an icon who has his name plastered to public edifices across this state and who has been in Congress longer than she has been alive), but she is not talking. Will she run? I really don't know. The reasons for and against running against Byrd are both numerous. Defeating Byrd would make her the ultimate giant-killer in West Virginia politics and instantly a prominent national figure. Deferring on this race and waiting to challenge our other senator, Jay Rockefeller, in 2008, would still allow her to become a senator in the near term. Rockefailure, of course, is a longtime nemesis of her father, former Governor Arch Moore (who defeated Rocky in 1972 but lost in 1980 when Rocky spent more than $12 million of his inherited fortune in the state's most expensive race ever). Running against Byrd is seen as a bigger gamble. Running against Rockefailure is seen as a very safe bet.

One sign that Capito is leaning toward not running for the Senate is the recent departure from her Washington office of chief of staff Martin Baker. Baker had joined with the intention of migrating to a Senate campaign but quit after apparently not receiving the response he sought when he demanded to make the move. However, Capito has not taken advantage of the speculation--as others often do--to raise tons of money before announcing that she would stay in her current office. However, in favor of Capito running for the Senate is that after a wildfire of speculation and anticipation among the chattering classes that she was getting ready to run, she threw a wet blanket on this talk by dumping Baker, moderating her public comments, and not raking in the dough. Is she very shrewdly playing her cards here to make an announcement real news to not only the public that gets its news from the mainstream media but also to political insiders and junkies that relish the behind-the-scenes talk and insider information? Finally, does Shelley want to take the risk, however small, of taking a pass on this race only to see another Republican defy the odds and beat her to the punch of becoming the first Republican to win a US Senate race in West Virginia in 50 years? Of course, all this merely brings us back to the fact that we really don't know what Shelley will do.

So why do I focus exclusively on Shelley Moore Capito? Simply put, she is the only candidate who would have a chance at beating Byrd as long as he doesn't die or do anything incredibly inappropriate or have a disastrous "senior moment" when he forgets where he is or what he's doing. I was surprised myself when the polls were released showing that if she decided to run, Shelley would enter the race already in a dead heat when I had previously expected that a considerable amount of time and money would be needed to bring the race to that point.

Run, Shelley, run!