The West Virginia Senate race is the tenth article in a succession of articles offering expanded analysis on the ratings for the PeoplesPunditDaily.com 2014 Senate Map. The Mountain State hasn’t been represented by a Republican in the U.S. Senate since 1959, which is the longest Republican Senate shutout in the country.
Expanded analysis for our 2014 Senate Map Predictions will be updated frequently to reflect polling, as well as other developments. The West Virginia Senate race, which has been rated “Safe Republican” on our 2014 Senate Map since its first release, is slowly but surely becoming a lost race for the Democratic Party.
Worth noting, a Democrat hasn’t represented Kansas in the Senate since 1939, the longest shutout for the Democratic Party (read Kansas analysis here). Similarly, The Mountain State hasn’t been represented by a Republican in the U.S. Senate since 1959, which is the longest Republican Senate shutout in the country. But unlike Kansas, it very much looks as if that will change in 2015 in the West Virginia Senate race to replace Senator Jay Rockefeller, the heir to Standard Oil, is over.
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, a 7-term congresswoman and the daughter of former Gov. Arch Moore, has an easy path to the seat and is the favorite for the Republican nomination, despite primary challenger and former Del. Pat McGeehan.
Democrats have now settled on a candidate, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, the former co-anchor of “Good Morning, West Virginia” on Charleston television. Her husband, Erik Wells, is now a state senator, and Democrats were happy to have her running, that is, after more than a half-dozen prominent Democrats declined to run. West Virginia is a state that is very Republican at the presidential level, but remains true to their Democratic tradition at the state level.
However, the national Democratic Party is opposed to West Virginia voters on nearly every issue of national importance, such as guns, immigration and particularly environmental regulations. Tennant has managed to keep things interesting, or at least so it seems in the media, but she doesn’t seem to grasp the sheer anger you will find among the people in the state.
“I think he has not fairly looked at what’s taking place with West Virginia,” she told The New York Times. “A policy like that hurts jobs for the people of this state.”
Except, the people of West Virginia know he has “looked at what’s taking place with West Virginia,” and in fact, they know he has resolved to sacrifice their jobs for the greater green energy good.
Rep. Capito, who Republicans rightfully saw as their dream candidate, is still polling far ahead of her opponent, with political and demographic winds at her back. Former West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin won his West Virginia Senate race against the Tea Party insurgency in 2010, and again in 2012, but Natalie Tennant is no Joe Manchin, and that is also true on each candidate’s stance on the issues.
While now-Senator Manchin won in 2010 by taking aim at the health care law and literally shooting cap-and-trade with a shotgun, Tennant dodged when asked whether she would have voted for ObamaCare. “If I were in office in 2010, I certainly would have brought West Virginia values to it,” Tennant said. She flatly refused to say whether she would have voted yes or no.
In fact, Tennant has a terrible tendency to dodge questions from voters and the media, which people have already caught on to, including questions on issues like gay marriage, late-term abortion, and other values voter issues that so many West Virginians feel are being increasingly threatened by the Democratic Party. In 2010, when Manchin beat John Raese for the late Senator Robert Byrd’s open seat, the Cook PVI was R+8, a testament to Manchin’s strengths as a candidate (considering Republicans had an 83 percent chance of success in states that were more Republican than D+2).
In 2014, however, the Cook PVI will be R+13, in a state Mitt Romney beat President Obama 62 – 36 percent. Obama is toxic in West Virginia, which is evident by Tennant’s ridiculous display following a New York fundraiser, during which Michelle Obama told the crowd to write “a big old fat check” to her. When asked by the local news media about the Sheraton ballroom event, Tennant plead that “what the first lady said is not an endorsement.” It didn’t go over well.
Past surveys measured President Obama’s approval rating in the state at an abysmal 23 – 28 percent in PPP and Crossroads, respectively. Gallup measured an average approval of 32 percent in the state during 2013, but in 2014 it has hovered around 25 percent. PPP found Capito leading Tennant 50 – 36, and the poll commissioned for Crossroads GPS was even more of a blowout. In both surveys, Tennant has a serious problem, which is to say that she cannot rely upon an increase of name recognition to improve her standing.
Incredibly, that polling was conducted prior to the disastrous ObamaCare rollout, and before people lost coverage they were promised they could keep. President Obama was shut out of all 55 counties in the 2012 election by Mitt Romney, making West Virginia the only state in the nation in which Obama didn’t win a single county.
Natalie Tennant appeared to have all of the tools to win the West Virginia Senate race, including the ability to win statewide by a significant margin. However, clearly she isn’t panning out to be the candidate Democrats needed to hold this seat, though I am not sure that one even exists at this point. Therefore, this race is rated “Safe Republican” for now, and there isn’t a single argument the Tennant campaign has made to suggest otherwise.
(Note: When factoring polling, demographics (including Cook PVI), presidential approval rating, candidate recruitment, among other variables in the PPD model, Capito has an 87 percent chance of victory in the West Virginia Senate race.)
View Polling Graphs Below Or Return To PPD 2014 Senate Map
|Poll||Date||Sample||Capito (R)||Tennant (D)||Spread|
|Rasmussen Reports||2/19 – 2/20||500 LV||49||35||Capito +14|
|PPP (D)||9/19 – 9/22||1110 RV||50||36||Capito +14|
|The West Virginia Poll||8/15 – 8/22||400 A||45||40||Capito +5|