MORGANTOWN -- In 1972, Republican Arch Moore defeated Democrat Jay Rockefeller for governor of West Virginia. Eight years later, Rockefeller defeated Moore in the race for the same office.

In 2014, there is an opportunity for the rubber match, but this time the office will be U.S. Senate and the Moore will be the former governor's daughter, Shelley Moore Capito.

Capito is currently serving her sixth term in Congress, representing the state's 2nd district. Capito has already said she will run for re-election in 2012, and winning a seventh term should not be a problem.

But this story is about 2014.

Rockefeller has given every indication he'll run for a sixth term in 2014.

"The 2014 election is still a good ways off, and we need to stay focused on the work rather than the politics, but let there be no doubt that I intend to ask West Virginians for their continued support when the time comes," Rockefeller said in a statement e-mailed to me.

Rockefeller has settled in to his seat through the years, rising to chairmanship of the Commerce Committee. His only decision is whether to run for re-election. There is no other office within his reach, though he once toyed with the idea of running for president.

Rockefeller prefers the methodical wonkiness of the Senate to retail politics. For example, he quietly worked behind the scenes when WVU's invitation to the Big 12 appeared in jeopardy, while Joe Manchin went public with his threat of a Senate investigation.

Capito is chair of the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit. A committee chairmanship does not appear in her future, and the challenge of raising money and running every two years is a constant grind.

Like her father during his prime, Capito is a strong retail politician. She never strays too far from her district and works hard to make sure she is in front of voters.

Senate Republican leaders were disappointed Capito didn't challenge Joe Manchin last year for Robert Byrd's vacant seat. Capito decided against it because of Manchin's strong approval numbers.

Manchin won the seat by 10 points over the Republican nominee, John Raese.

A Public Policy Poll in September showed 61 percent of voters approved of Manchin's job performance. The poll also showed that Manchin would lead Capito 49 percent to 38 percent with 13 percent undecided if the two ran against each other in 2012.

But Capito versus Rockefeller is a different story.

PPP found that if the race in 2014 were between Capito and Rockefeller, Capito leads 48 percent to Rockefeller's 44 percent with 7 percent undecided.

That same poll shows Capito with higher favorables (53 percent to 47 percent) and lower unfavorables (28 percent to 41 percent).

Capito is notoriously cautious with her political decisions. As the state's leading Republican, she is constantly asked about her political future and, as a result, she has become skilled at being non-committal.

Ask Capito what's ahead for her politically and she'll say she's concentrating on her 2012 Congressional race, but keeping her options open.

But make no mistake, the 2014 Senate race against Rockefeller is her leading option.

Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.

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