CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- To my mind, state political party committees are a lot like CB radios. Neither has been relevant since the late 1970s.
That could change, though, if the leadership of the House of Delegates is able to stall legislation to hold a special primary election for governor, thus reverting the selection to the old-style nominating conventions.
There's been speculation that the House leadership is not keen on passing the special primary bill since House Speaker Rick Thompson's chances of winning the Democratic nomination are better at a convention (which could be stacked with inordinate numbers of pro-labor delegates) than his chances (slim to none) of winning the primary election.
However, the real advantage of a party convention to Democratic hopefuls is that that it condenses a long, ugly, bitter, expensive, and highly publicized primary campaign into a ugly, bitter, but brief and comparatively inexpensive convention battle that would garner only a day or two's worth of heavy media coverage.
So a primary election could be a real advantage for the Republican candidate for governor, who is likely to have a relative cakewalk to the GOP nomination.
While it's no sure thing at this point -- since there's only one way for a bill to become law, and innumerable ways to kill, gut, or otherwise allow bills to die. (Which is why I abhor bill introduction stories, by the way.) However, I suspect public pressure ultimately will get too strong to allow the House to let the special primary bill die this session.
(Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan, in his capacity acting as governor, has already put out a press release playing the "don't disenfranchise the active military serving overseas" card.)
If the special primary bill passes, look for the crowded field of Democratic hopefuls to thin out.
I've talked to Democratic consultants who've said they would advise their clients to sit out the 2011 race. After all, the winner of the Oct. 4 special election will be thrown into office with only about six weeks to prepare for the 2012 legislative session, and after the session, will immediately be back out on the campaign trail for the 2012 election.
The kicker is, that whoever wins the special election would only be eligible for re-election for a single four-year term.
Speaking of possible candidates for the Oct. 4 special election, the most interesting results in the Public Policy Polling survey last week were not the outcomes of possible head-to-head races, but the approval ratings for the various hopefuls.
Asked whether they have favorable or unfavorable opinions of the possible candidates, in four cases, more than 50 percent of those surveyed answered, "not sure," which is another way of saying, "I don't know who you're talking about..."
Among Republicans, 80 percent of those surveyed didn't know state GOP chairman Mike Stuart, and 76 percent didn't know Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph. (Barnes said he was flattered to have 24 percent name recognition at this point, figuring he'd be in the single digits.)