I mentioned this in yesterday’s Roundup, but I’m still marveling at it, just as an example of how not to run a negotiation. Democrats in West Virginia originally wanted to follow the law by waiting until 2012 for a special election to replace the late Robert Byrd. Republicans howled about the deception of an interim replacement appointed for over two years. Fine, Democrats said, they can write a new law to allow for a November 2010 special election. Wahh, Republicans countered, this only works if our only elected federal official can run for Senate and her House seat at the same time. OK, said Democrats.

Under the draft agreement lawmakers were shown at about 5 p.m., voters would go to the polls for an Aug. 28 for a primary to choose party nominees and then again Nov. 2 for a general election. Candidates who have already filed for an office would be allowed to run in the special Senate election.

This allows Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to run for the seat; it’s literally a law written for the benefit of one person.

There’s a second interpretation of these results – Joe Manchin wanted a special election by any means necessary, and doesn’t much care whether he has to beat Capito to do it. He thinks his best chance at becoming a longtime Senator lies in a quick-strike special election, and what’s more, he could drive a stake through Capito’s political career even if she is returned to the House. It’s not even 100% that Capito runs, although this special provision made for her may entice her.

But I tend to agree with Steve Singiser’s take – this came right out of the Democratic School for Negotiating to Get What Your Opponent Wants:

Now, the Democrats have not only given the Republicans an election at the time at which they desired, they have also hand-delivered the Republicans a gift which will allow the only Republican with a snowballs chance in Hades of being able to run, while simultaneously giving her the lifeboat of a guaranteed House victory if the Senate campaign does not end to her liking.

In other words, the Democrats struck a deal to exponentially increase the chances of their most formidable challenger getting into the race.


And maybe this doesn’t matter in the context of this special election. But Republicans, in the minority in West Virginia’s legislature, now understand that they can basically push around the majority to meet their desired ends.

That’s a familiar tale in this short era of Democratic control in Washington. Looks like it’s spreading outside the Beltway, too.