West Virginia, North Dakota Senate Race Ratings Change

Posted April 11, 2011 at 3:53pm

The shifting 2012 Senate landscape and lack of candidates in two states have prompted Roll Call Politics to change two race ratings. One adjustment is good news for Democrats, while the other favors the Republicans who are attempting to win back Senate control.

With no top Republican candidates stepping up yet to take on Sen. Joe Manchin (D), Roll Call Politics has moved the West Virginia Senate race from Tossup to Leans Democratic.

Although the state is Republican-leaning, with no apparent GOP opponent, Manchin is currently favored to win re-election.

According to state GOP Executive Director Chad Holland, potential candidates are likely waiting on Rep. Shelley Moore Capito to announce whether she is running. “Everyone’s waiting for her to make a call. If she were to run, she would easily win the Republican primary,” Holland said.

Her entrance would also make this a competitive race. The six-term Congresswoman has said that all options remain on the table, and sources close to her say that is still the case. Several more potential candidates are tied up in the special gubernatorial election — the GOP primary will be held May 14, and the general is Oct. 4.

Manchin, then a highly popular governor, won the special election last year to replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D) for the remaining two years of his term. He defeated wealthy businessman John Raese (R) by 11 points.

In North Dakota, the Democratic seat is looking more likely to shift to the GOP.

After Sen. Kent Conrad (D) announced his retirement earlier this year, Democrats started looking for a potential successor to the three-term Senator. Roll Call initially rated the race as Leans Republican, a big shift from when Conrad was favored to keep it for the party.

But a few months after Conrad’s announcement, there’s still not a single Democratic candidate publicly looking at the race. Former Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) has dismissed speculation that he could succeed his longtime friend and colleague, instead telling reporters that he’s looking at a bid for governor.

Given the dearth of Democratic candidates and the state’s overwhelming track record of voting for Republicans in recent cycles, Roll Call now rates this race as a Likely Republican pickup.

Although no well-known Republicans have jumped into the race yet, several elected officials are publicly considering bids and are expected to make a decision once the state legislative session is over in the next few weeks. Republican Rep. Rick Berg, state Sen. Tony Grindberg, state Treasurer Kelly Schmidt and other statewide officeholders are just a few names on a long list of potential GOP candidates looking at running for Conrad’s seat.