WHEELING, W.Va. – Although his name won’t appear on any ballot in 2014, Sen. Joe Manchin’s future in Congress may have a lot to do with November’s election returns, political analyst Chris Stirewalt believes.
Manchin, D-W.Va., won’t have to run again for his Senate seat until 2018, but he’s made no secret of his frustration with Washington politics and has acknowledged publicly he’s keeping his options open for 2016, when term-limited Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s job will be up for grabs.
Manchin will be more likely to seek an early exit from Congress if the Senate remains in Democrat hands, Stirewalt, digital politics editor for Fox News and a Wheeling native, told a lunchtime crowd at River City Ale Works in downtown Wheeling on Thursday. His talk was part of the West Liberty University Economics Club’s speaker series.
Republicans have a real shot to take over the Senate in November, Stirewalt said, but even if they do it’s highly unlikely they will have the 60 votes necessary to break a Democrat filibuster. That means they’ll have to negotiate with Democrats, and Manchin – who hasn’t been shy about opposing his party – may be one of the first to whom they’ll turn.
“That will make Manchin a very powerful person,” Stirewalt said.
During his talk, Stirewalt offered several predictions for November, including the defeat of longtime Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., by Republican challenger Evan Jenkins in the Mountain State’s 3rd Congressional District.
But he also expects a seat long held by the GOP – the 2nd District seat being vacated by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., as she seeks to replace retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. – could turn blue. He considers Democrat Nick Casey the favorite over Republican nominee Alex Mooney.
Stirewalt also projects that if the election were held today, Capito would defeat Democrat Secretary of State Natalie Tennant for Rockefeller’s seat. And he believes that demonstrates the GOP has learned from past mistakes and has begun to put people ahead of ideology when selecting candidates.
For example, Stirewalt said, Capito may not be conservative enough to satisfy some Republicans, but she is electable – and that may make all the difference.
“She’s not a Tea Party dreamboat,” he said. “What she is is a vote against Harry Reid as majority leader, and that goes a long way…