CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- From a purely selfish standpoint, I was hoping to witness an unprecedented contested floor vote for House speaker.
However, being a banker by trade, House Finance Chairman Harry Keith White, D-Mingo, knows how to count numbers -- and couldn't come up with a scenario where the numbers worked out in his favor.
Going into White's withdrawal announcement Friday, House Judiciary Chairman Tim Miley, D-Harrison, had commitments from about 37 of the House's 54 Democrats (with the 54th member, the replacement for former Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, to be appointed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in time to participate in Tuesday's speaker election).
That was enough to win the party's nomination in caucus, but not to secure the needed majority of votes on the floor to win the speakership.
Meanwhile, it was anticipated that the 46 House Republicans would be committed to vote for their nominee, Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, on the first ballot.
In that scenario, if White had been nominated from the floor, he would have finished third in the first round of balloting, and would have been eliminated.
(White's only chance would have been if there were two candidates nominated from the floor -- if he survived the first round of balloting, he could have hoped to peel off votes from Republicans and conservative Democrats in the second round ... )
Going into White's announcement Friday, Armstead was hoping that after the contested first ballot, he would go head-to-head with Miley in second and any subsequent rounds of balloting, needing to pick up votes from just five conservative Democrats to pull a true upset of having a speaker elected from the minority party.
While that would have been unprecedented, Armstead noted that the unprecedented has become the norm in state politics ever since Sen. Byrd's death in June 2010.
"In the last few years, there have been many unprecedented things that nobody could have anticipated," Armstead told me.
True -- 10 years ago, who would have predicted that Tomblin -- or any other legislator from south of the Kanawha, for that matter -- would be governor?
Speaking of speculation, think how different the speaker's race would have been if, back in January, Tomblin had appointed Miley -- instead of Sam Cann
-- to fill the vacancy in the 12th Senatorial District when then-Sen. Joe Minard
, D-Harrison, resigned to become Senate clerk.
Up until the speakership suddenly opened, Miley, of course, was looking at a 2014 Senate race against Cann.
(Generally speaking, going to the Senate is a promotion, but the House speaker does get somewhat nicer accommodations than a rank-and-file Senate office ... )