Well, he’s in. West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin will run to succeed U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd in the United States Senate. Byrd died in June at age 92. Gov. Manchin recently appointed his former chief of staff, Carte Goodwin, to be the placeholder until the election can be held. The special election will be on August 28th, and the general election will be held on November 2nd.
In order for legislation to pass which set the date of the special election, Manchin and Democrats in the West Virginia House of Delegates had to make a concession: the law will allow people to run for more than one office at a time. This was to open up the possibility for U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to run for the seat as well without giving up her House seat. Capito will make a decision on whether she will be a candidate later on this week.
Manchin is far and away the favorite. He is a Democrat in a state where a Republican has not been elected as a U.S. Senator since 1956. The West Virginia House of Delegates has been in Democratic hands since 1932, and two out of the three Congresspeople from West Virginia are Democrats. While West Virginia has tended Republican in Presidential elections, Gov. Manchin is sort of Democrat that has bucked that trend. He comes from a family that has been prominent in West Virginia politics for generations, and he is conservative socially and moderate on fiscal issues. He has hit the White House for the way that various Obama administration policies have been sold to the public, and he has maintained approval ratings in the 70s and 80s for most of his tenure as Governor (he currently sports a 77 percent approval rating).
Rep. Capito represents the greatest challenge to him. Her father was former Gov. Arch Moore, and she has fended off challenges in her district pretty well. Her voting record has been moderate, and that may play well to the some of the traditionalist Democratic voters in the northern part of the state.
However, no one should look at this race (especially if Capito does not run) as a toss-up. It is pretty assured that Gov. Joe Manchin will be the junior senator from West Virginia in another month and a half, barring some sort of unforeseen massive scandal.