By all accounts, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant will enter the US Senate race to take on presumed Republican nominee Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito.
On the surface, it looks like an appropriate move for a popular young statewide officeholder with definite ambitions to rise higher. She has a strong background as an elected secretary of state with experience as a Charleston television news figure. Even in a loss, Tennant can use the campaign to reintroduce herself to voters across the state in preparation for a run at the Governor's Mansion.
It is this ambition most threatened by her Senate run. A deeper look shows how dicey this campaign could be for Tennant.
Images like this one have already reappeared. Standing in front of a sparse crowd of Obama supporters will not win Tennant any support in a state whose Democrats preferred a prisoner in 2012. Obama has only lost popularity since then. She struggles to argue that coal jobs have slightly ticked up, but cannot defend the power plant closings that are coming. Or the dramatic rise in health insurance costs from Obamacare.
In a race for governor in 2016, Obama matters less. Tennant will have difficulty shaking the perception that she will be anything but a water carrier for the presidency and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Senator Joe Manchin learned that even piecemeal support for Obama policies can take a drastic toll on polling numbers.
Capito's fundraising prowess, formidable campaign team, and popularity have vanquished all comers since 2000. Few major donors outside of the Democratic Party will seek to invest in a race that has little chance of success.
Tennant's run only makes sense in the national Democratic big picture. A viable candidate forces the Republican Party to spend resources and raise money in a race that they should ultimately win. Those resources will not go to tighter races with less chance of success.
She will also have to tie herself even more securely to the highly unpopular national Democratic Party agenda. A gubernatorial race allows her to stand aloof as Earl Ray Tomblin did. Tennant cannot erase images from a Senate run that will place her even more strongly into the camp of individuals heartily disliked across West Virginia. She also cannot haul out the well worn liberal "War on Women" card against a respected, accomplished, and popular female candidate like Capito.
This serves the purposes of the West Virginia Republican Party nicely because it will weaken an individual who was expected to make a strong run for governor in 2016.