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NRSC Will Let West Virginia Primary Take Its Course

The National Republican Senatorial Committee’s involvement in the GOP primary in West Virginia will likely be limited to candidate recruiting, NRSC Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) said Wednesday evening.

With the contest now set for Aug. 28 and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) committed to running for re-election to her House seat, Cornyn and his staff are talking to other individuals about taking on Gov. Joe Manchin (D), considered the favorite in the race to succeed the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D).

However, Cornyn indicated that once the candidate field is set, the NRSC is inclined to let West Virginia Republicans sort out the nomination for themselves. Cornyn also said the NRSC would decide how much money to commit to the fall special election and base the decision on how the contest between Manchin and the eventual GOP nominee develops.

“I haven’t made any commitment to get involved in the primary,” Cornyn said. “I think in this environment, it’s best to let the primary voters do their thing and select the candidate. Because — I think particularly in this environment — folks are less interested in what people who work in Washington have to say.”

On Thursday, wealthy Republican businessman John Raese announced his candidacy. This would be Raese’s third Senate bid, his first coming in 1984, when he lost an open-seat race by 4 points to then-governor and now-Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D). Raese challenged Byrd in 2006, but he didn’t come close to beating the Senator.

Cornyn said he sees a path to victory, even with the popular Manchin a shoo-in to win the Democratic primary and carry his party’s banner into the fall, contending that West Virginians oppose many of the policies supported by Democrats. But the NRSC was already targeting 11 Democratic-held seats before the West Virginia race emerged, and competition for committee resources is expected to be fierce.

“The goal will be to maximize the number of Senators, and wins, and we’ll have to figure out what that actually means in practice, probably pretty late in the game,” Cornyn said.

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