Republicans to Attempt to Defeat Re-Election of Sen. Robert Byrd, the Sponsor of the Teaching American History Grants

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According to Republican strategists the White House is targeting for removal an eight-term powerful senator, the 87 year-old Robert C. Byrd (D-WV). Byrd has earned the administration’s wrath for his fiery speeches on the Senate floor reviling Bush on his budget, and his domestic and international policies; for some time Byrd’s was nearly the lone voice speaking in opposition to the war in Iraq. This last week Byrd put to rest rumors that he may not seek re-election when he announced that he is running for a historic ninth term in the United States Senate.

Byrd is the Ranking Minority member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and is widely recognized as a champion of funding for the teaching of American history and the Constitution. His is the master hand behind the Education Department’s “Teaching American History” initiative and, over the years, no member of Congress has done so much to advance the cause of American history education than the senator. Speaking before hundreds of supporters at the West Virginia state capitol building in Charleston, Byrd stated, “I have the best job in America because I represent you, the people of West Virginia. I want to keep this job.”

Hill insiders predict that what undoubtedly will be Byrd’s last campaign may be his toughest. At least four Republicans have announced plans to challenge Byrd though none probably have the political clout to successfully take him on. Most political pundits, however, contend that Representative Shelly More Capito (R-WV), who has yet to announce whether she will run against Byrd, has the name recognition and charm to run a successful campaign to unseat Byrd.

In reaching a decision, Capito rightfully is being cautious. Byrd’s incumbency and seniority in the Senate, the fact that he is so powerful in terms of bringing much needed federal dollars into West Virginia which Capito, as a junior senator would not be able to deliver, and Byrd’s independence, feistiness, and devotion to traditional family values make him a formidable opponent. Capito is expected to announce later this fall whether she will run for Byrd’s seat or for a fourth term in the House. At present she trails Byrd 39% to his commanding 55% lead. If Capito makes an unsuccessful bid for the Senate and loses her House seat it could well swing back to the Democrats, thus returning this fledgling red state to the blues.

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