I've always been a fan of gambling and whenever you play any game of chance, the odds of a win vary depending on the game and situation. Today's game -- who ends up being the junior Senator from the great state of West Virginia?
The candidate: Joe Manchin -- Might as well start here at the top. Manchin is the favorite to win this race and thus elevate himself to a more prestigious position of power.
Positives: He has been in state government since 1982, enjoys high approval ratings from West Virginians and has a bully pulpit of sorts as the chief executive of the state.
Most citizens around the nation have been exposed to Manchin on some level for his appearances on television in his handling of serious mining accidents here in the Mountain state.
As governor, he has managed the budget effectively and though that is his job -- not many other governors in the union can claim to be as effective a steward as he is.
Manchin also helped privatize workers compensation in the state and take a heavy burden away from taxpayers.
Last benefit for Manchin -- he is a moderate Democrat. Or should we say a West Virginia Democrat. He is socially conservative on the key issues of guns and abortion.
Negatives: People love Manchin but they don't know why. Ask citizens of the state what the governor has done in his six years in office and they can only point to his media presence in mining disasters. Let's be honest, how difficult is it to report on the situation every few hours and attempt to console people who are inconsolable?
Manchin is 61 years old. Yes, that's a baby compared to the late Senator Byrd, but not everyone has that kind of longevity or staying power. Power within the Senate is gained over time, allowing an individual senator to accumulate the better committee positions over time. How long would Manchin serve and would he be able to effectively help West Virginia?
Has the state really improved in his tenure as governor? The state continues to see a loss in good paying jobs involved with heavy industry and these jobs are replaced with the service industry. Manchin deserves somewhat of a pass on this because local governments should be responsible for this as well, but as governor, some type of plan to bring it business must exist. You can't simply put up signs along the interstate calling Charleston to Huntington the "technology corridor" and hope that it happens.
Manchin's appointment of Carte Goodwin as interim senator did not win points with much of anyone. Everyone sees the young Goodwin as a political filler. That isn't a knock on him. I wouldn't turn down an appointment like that either. What a resume builder! I would secretly like to see him file paperwork to run in November. Wouldn't that stir the pot?
Odds of winning: 3 to 2 -- somebody has to be the Yankees of this pennant race.
The candidate: Shelley Moore-Capito, current Congresswoman from West Virginia's 2nd district.
Positives: Capito is a Republican that has proven she can win in a state controlled by the Democrats. After winning tight races in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000 and 2002, Capito has become entrenched in her current position and has a great deal of support in her district and in other parts of the state, particularly after voting against Obama's health care reform earlier this year.
She can match Manchin's name recognition. The Moore in her name comes from her father, the former Congressman turned governor Arch Moore, who still enjoys an oddly high popularity despite being caught up in some financial scandals.
Capito's voting record and stance on issues appeal to most West Virginians on conservative issues -- which is how most people in the state base their vote. Her positions on illegal immigration and tax cuts give her a "tea party" flavor most people in the state seem to be buying into these days.
She supports the interests of senior citizens. Check her positions and voting records on votesmart.org and you will find she's been kind to the elderly. Those are the people who make up a bulk of the citizenry here and are also more likely to vote of any age group.
Negatives: Although this isn't really a negative, the fact that Capito is now a fixture in the House could entice her to steer clear of a Senate race against the powerful Manchin machine. She's already on several key committees in the House and has no real threat to her in the 2nd district. Typically, members of Congress from West Virginia find themselves near invincible once they claim a seat.
She's a Republican. Again, this isn't necessarily a negative (depending on your political persuasion), but facts are facts: Republicans have a difficult time winning in this state. They're outnumbered by a 2 to 1 margin and most people in the state are not inclined to investigate Capito's views. Ideologically, she doesn't seem quite that far off from Manchin.
Odds of winning: I would have put Capito on a 7 to 1, but news agencies within the state are reporting she will not run for Senate and will make another run for re-election to the House.
The candidate: Ken Hechler! -- Oh it looks as if the manager has gone to the dugout and asked for 'ole reliable pinch hitter!
Positives: Hechler has more political experience in than anyone else in the game. He was West Virginia's Secretary of State for 16 years, a United States Congressman for 18 years, and served as a special assistant to President Harry S. Truman.
Pedigree and history -- Hechler is an intelligent, polished and accomplished individual. Ivy League education, World War II service, college professor and scholar, served in a variety of federal civil service positions and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the famous march from Selma, Alabama.
Hechler is a likable person. Big deal, you say? How many politicians have the charisma enough to make you like them?
Negatives: Hechler is 95 years old, which is three years older than the late Senator Byrd. How long could we anticipate Hechler being around?
Perhaps even more of a problem is Hechler's focus of his campaign. He has already stated his main priority will be to stop mountain-top removal as a means of obtaining coal. This is a sensitive issue in West Virginia that pits environmentalists against an industry that provides a huge number of good paying jobs to our citizens. Hechler has participated in protests to stop this process and how West Virginians will respond is anyone's guess.
Odds of winning: 50 to 1 -- I wish Hechler wasn't such a longshot, but those two negatives loom large in the eyes of voters. If the election were today, I'd vote for him.
The candidate: John Raese, highly successful businessman from Morgantown.
Positives: Honestly, Raese doesn't have much going for him. However, one powerful tool he does have in his arsenal is his ability to self-finance a campaign. Raese has plenty of cash on hand and is willing to spend in an attempt to wrestle his way into an open seat.
He's a Republican. Wait, how is this a positive? Easy. With Capito out of the lineup, Raese has virtually no competition in the primaries, which allows him time to create a strategy against Team Manchin.
Negatives: Raese is the lovable loser of West Virginia elections. He's been trounced in every race he's every been a part of against a Democrat and was destroyed by West Virginia's senior senator, Jay Rockefeller. The late Robert Byrd also did a tap dance on any election hopes Raese had in 2006. If there were a Chicago Cubs of the election for senator, Raese would be it.
He has nothing to stand on. Since he hasn't been elected to an office, he hasn't had the opportunity to do any credit claiming on behalf of West Virginians.
Odds of winning: 1,000,000 to 1. Word on the street is that snowballs headed toward hell don't feel so bad when they hear about him running for another office.
Those are the four major players in the field now -- winnowed down to three. Additions will be made as more candidates throw their hats into the ring.