PARKERSBURG - Natalie Tennant's campaign is encouraged by an analysis that claims they have the best chance for victory through voter mobilization among Democrats in a dozen U.S. Senate races.
Tennant is the frontrunner for her party's nomination for the Senate seat now occupied by fellow Democrat Jay Rockefeller. She faces two challengers- Williamstown resident David Wamsley and Buckhannon resident Dennis Melton - in the primary.
However, a showdown with U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito - running in the Republican primary against Parkersburg resident Matthew Dodrill and Washington resident Larry Butcher - has long been considered all but certain.
Polls show Capito with leads ranging from 6 to 15 percent in a head-to-head match-up, but Tennant campaign communications director Jenny Donohue said that won't be the final word.
"This race is about targeting and turning out West Virginia voters, and if we do that, Natalie will win," she said.
That's why the campaign is trumpeting a feature in the latest issue of the magazine New Republic that breaks down "The new science of Democratic survival." It sets a "win" number - 52 percent - of votes a candidate needs to be victorious.
The number of "base votes" a campaign can count on, based on how many voters tend to vote in every election with which party, was then calculated. The difference between that number and the win total is the deficit, and, by the magazine's calculations, Tennant's is 53,125 out of 1.2 million registered voters in the state, the lowest deficit of the 12 races highlighted.
According to a breakdown accompanying the main article by Sasha Issenberg, the only way to close that deficit is to get sympathetic voters who don't regularly cast ballots to head to the polls, something that can be a challenge in mid-term elections.
"That modeling shows that the votes are here to send Natalie to the Senate," Donohue said.
Mobilizing voters is exactly the strategy the Tennant campaign is pursuing, she said. The candidate has visited 34 of West Virginia's counties and has pledged to hit all 55, while the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is including West Virginia in a $60 million boost to field campaigns across 10 states.
Retired Parkersburg High School social studies teacher Woody Wilson said he believes Capito's record and experience give her a distinct advantage in the race, but a lot can happen between now and Nov. 4.
"It's just way too early for anybody to bet money on it," he said.
The information presented in the New Republic piece "makes it a lot more interesting," Wilson said.
Outside contributions could help boost turnout for Tennant, he said. But they won't be the only supporters trying to get out the vote.
"We can assume the Capito campaign is going to be doing the same thing," Wilson said.
In fact, the West Virginia Republican Party started its ground game for the 2014 election a year early, said state GOP Chairman Conrad Lucas. Offices are open in Charleston, Morgantown and Martinsburg, with one set to debut this month in Logan.
Based on previous election successes, including Capito's seven consecutive victories, Rep. David McKinley's two wins and Patrick Morrisey's election as attorney general, Lucas said it's clear the Mountain State is no longer the Democratic stronghold it once was.
"We know that statewide our brand appeals to a lot of West Virginians, regardless of party affiliation," he said.
As for the New Republic article, Lucas said it appears to look solely at numbers, "regardless of what's actually happening in the state."