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With Capito Out, 11 Vie to Be Manchin’s Republican Challenger

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito’s (R) announcement Wednesday that she would not run in West Virginia’s special election to replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D) left her party without its best chance at a competitive race against the likely Democratic nominee, Gov. Joe Manchin. Still, her exit from the race will not leave the party without options — there are 11 possible GOP replacements. But none of them appears likely to make this a particularly close race.

A total of 15 people had filed by the 5 p.m. deadline today — three Democrats, 11 Republicans and Jesse Johnson, a member of the West Virginia Mountain Party. Though Manchin does have two challengers for the Democratic nomination — former state Secretary of State Ken Hechler and former state Del. Sheirl Fletcher — he is still heavily favored to get the nomination in the Aug. 28 primary.

John Raese, a prominent businessman who has already run in two past Senate races, is by far the best-known Republican to file. He lost 52-48 percent in a 1984 open-seat race against then-Gov. Jay Rockefeller (D), but only got 34 percent of the vote in a 2006 contest against Byrd.

A Rasmussen Reports poll released today indicates Raese would not even come close to winning the race this time either — Manchin leads him 51-35 percent. Part of the issue: Only 56 percent of Republicans would support him in that match-up, while another 29 percent would give their vote to Manchin.

There is no doubt state Republicans are dismayed by Capito’s decision to forgo a Senate bid in favor of only running for re-election to her House seat, though the law authorizing the special Nov. 2 election gave her the option of running for both seats simultaneously.

“We were pinning our hopes on Shelley, and while we respect her decision, we are very disappointed,” state party chairman Doug McKinney told The Charleston Gazette. “I thought that would have been a great race.”

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