WASHINGTON, D.C. — With several months remaining before the 2014 General Election, political analysts with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics say this year looks to be the year West Virginia elects its first Republican U.S. Senator since the 1950s.
On Thursday, the race between Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va, 2) and Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant was moved from “Leans Republican” to “Likely Republican” on “Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball,” a political forecast issued by the Center.
“There’s not really any single event that prompted this. It’s just that, over time, we’ve just been observing this race and we just have an increased confidence that Capito is the favorite here,” said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of “Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball.”
The predictions, for races across the United States, are reached by analyzing polling, electoral history, candidate quality and other information from additional sources. Kondik said, taking into account all of those factors, they’re calling for the West Virginia seat U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) currently holds to go to Capito — the Republican in the race.
“I just get the sense that the Senate’s probably going to come down to Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Iowa, Alaska and I think that West Virginia is, sort of, increasingly being looked at as a race that you could just sort of put in the Republican column and say, ‘Oh, this is probably going to be a pickup for Republicans,'” Kondik said.
Republicans need six seats to gain control of the U.S. Senate.
Jennifer Donohue, spokesperson for Natalie Tennant’s campaign, disagreed with Kondik’s analysis.
“Natalie turned out 30,000 more voters in the primary than Congresswoman Capito because West Virginia voters are tired of Congresswoman Capito working for herself and her Wall Street friends at their expense,” Donohue said in a statement.
“They are ready for a leader like Natalie with a proven track record of working for West Virginia families. It’s those West Virginia voters, not Washington pundits or Wall Street dollars, that will decide this race.”
Tennant is getting some help.
The Washington Post reported the Senate Majority PAC was scheduled to begin broadcasting more than $200,000 in television ads attacking Capito in Clarksburg, Charleston and Beckley on Friday. The Senate Majority PAC, run by former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee officials, has spent more than $25 million on races nationally this year.
Up to this point, the heaviest spending has been in Alaska, Louisiana, North Carolina and Arkansas.
In West Virginia, Martin Staunton, a former television anchor, is running for the U.S. Senate as an independent. The Libertarian candidate is John Buckley, a former Virginia delegate.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4.