Byrd Season Opens

Today the NRSC unveiled its first ad of the 2006 cycle. (Remember, though, DO NOT CONTRIBUTE to the NRSC until every judge gets an up-or-down vote!!!) The ad attacks Sen. Robert “KKK” Byrd for the dramatic changes in his positions from his early years in the Senate, including but not limited to his shift against the American military. Sen. Byrd is the poster boy for term limits. He has been in the Senate far too long while maintaining many of his biases from his days as a leader in the KKK.

Unfortunately, it appears that the only candidate the GOP will get behind is Rep. Shelley Moore-Capito. Capito has a lifetime ACU rating of just 74%. While some may seek to justify this by West Virginia’s union bent, the fact is that she differs from her state on the very social issues that make KKK so vulnerable. She has supported funding for UNESCO and the National Endowment for the Arts, opposed reporting illegal immigrants, and backed abortion and embryonic stem-cell research. In fact, Capito is the only pro-abortion House member from West Virginia.

Currently, Hiram Lewis is challenging Senator Byrd. Lewis finished the first quarter with an embarrassingly low $82,653 in cash on hand. Lewis may have a future in politics, as I hope he does, but the future is not immediate.

A better option would be West Virginia Secretary of State Betty Ireland. Last year, Ireland was the only Republican to win statewide, pulling an upset over Democrat Ken Hechler. In an otherwise bad year for West Virginia Republicans, Ireland won by nearly 30,000 votes. Not only is she a proven winner in a tough environment, but she would also find it much easier to galvanize the social conservative coalition that anyone who hopes to unseat Byrd will need. In fact, energizing the conservative base could almost be enough by itself in a low-turnout, base turnout election. The only difficulty is that Ireland was just elected for the first time, which can often make it seem as though one office is just being used as a stepping stone to another. Even so, an Ireland candidacy could actually work better than a Capito candidacy. Republicans would not risk losing a safe House seat while conservatives could have the chance to elect another conservative Senator from a conservative state.

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