If, indeed, West Virginia has a special Senate election this November, and the competitors turn out to be Gov. Joe Manchin on the Democratic side and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito on the Republican side, the GOP has to feel pretty good about the party’s chances.
Sure, Manchin is relatively popular (hard to tell with so little polling in the state); he would probably be the favorite, but not overwhelmingly so. But this is a year in which the Democrats already have to defend Senate seats in states they never expected — California, Washington, Wisconsin — and so this adds one more battlefront. The DSCC just isn’t going to have enough resources to fight everywhere; Manchin is probably going to be on his own for much of his fight. For what it is worth, Obama is terribly unpopular in the state.
With a Capito-Manchin race, the GOP has at least a decent shot of winning the seat, something they haven’t had in decades of campaigns against Robert Byrd or Jay Rockefeller.