Our Views: A GOP lead in key race

With national politicos already looking ahead to the 2014 races for U.S. House and Senate, some of the speculation includes the several states carried handsomely by GOP nominee Mitt Romney last year, and now where Democratic senators face the voters.

One of them, of course, is Louisiana, where U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., seeks re-election. But there are states, surprisingly enough, where President Barack Obama did even worse.

The president barely cracked 40 percent in Louisiana last time, but he didn’t even do that well in West Virginia.

And there, Democrats don’t even have the power of incumbency in 2014, as five-term Sen. Jay Rockefeller steps down. Shelley Moore Capito, a member of the House, is widely favored, even if some of her fellow Republicans believe her to be too much a part of the “establishment” wing of the party.

She is from a prominent political family, and she has brought home the bacon; ideological purists in the party object to her votes on several major spending issues. But West Virginia groans beneath the public works bestowed on it during the reign of its two long-serving senators, Rockefeller and the late — but legendary — Robert Byrd. Capito’s popularity does not seem likely to be damaged by that issue.

The GOP has seen strong Senate candidates damaged by party primary battles, leading to weaker nominees losing to Democrats in states from Delaware to Indiana to Missouri. The Capito race, should she face a primary challenge, might be another but at this point there is reason to call West Virginia a very likely GOP pickup in the Senate in 2014.