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While the debate over what to do about and what to cut to avoid the looming "fiscal cliff", U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D. WV) has been demanding that no cuts to Medicaid be made as part of a "grand bargain:

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 "Medicaid is a lifeline for our nation's most vulnerable families and children. We must not turn our backs on them. We have tough budget decisions to make, and it's essential that we find a real compromise solution.

"That solution should include asking the wealthiest to pay a little more, and not further burden struggling families -- especially when it comes to their health care," Rockefeller said Thursday.

"Our kids need the tools to succeed -- that includes making sure they grow up healthy" and helping their families escape poverty, he said. - Charleston Gazette, 12/6/12

Powerful words there, Senator.  Rockefeller and Senator Tom Harkin (D. IA) have been the lead Democrats in the Senate working to get 30 fellow Senate Democrats to urge  President Obama to to take Medicaid and Medicare of the table as part of a Grand Bargain:

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West Virginia’s Jay Rockefeller and Tom Harkin of Iowa are circulating a letter among their Democratic colleagues that calls on the president to stand firm on revenue, entitlement programs and spending cuts. They’re hoping to get as many as 30 Senate Democrats to sign on, Rockefeller said.

The letter, which was obtained by POLITICO, is dramatic in its policy prescriptions to avert the fiscal cliff.

For one, it says the president should insist on $1 in revenue for each $1 in spending cuts. It also says that the $917 billion in spending cuts enacted under last year’s agreement to increase the debt ceiling should be counted toward the next round of deficit reduction.

“These cuts are real, and have an effect on everything from housing to education,” according to the letter. “To ignore the significance of these cuts — by not counting them — further threatens programs that benefit working families.” - Politico, 11/14/12

Cuts to Medicaid is a serious concern around the country but especially in West Virginia.  Currently 23% of West Virginians are enrolled in Medicaid.  Rockefeller honestly hears his constituents' concerns.  He recently praised his constituents for demanding that there be no cuts to Medicaid:

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Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., praised the Children's Hospital Association for urging Congress to avoid making any Medicaid cuts in its ongoing budget negotiations.

Earlier this week, the Children's Hospital Association sent letters to President Obama, as well as to House and Senate leaders, urging them to protect Medicaid from harmful cuts that would cut access to health care for millions of struggling Americans, including 438,000 West Virginians. - Charleston Gazette, 12/6/12

Rockefeller is up for re-election in 2014 and he hasn't announced his retirement yet.  He's been too busy in the Senate to think about that.  There's a lot of speculation Rockefeller may retire because of a speech he made about the coal industry's propaganda campaign of fear and misinformation:

Needless to say that big coal doesn't want Rockefeller back in the Senate:

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For the coal sector, it’s about payback. For West Virginians, it is likely to be the rubber match after four decades of political battles. Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller is becoming more emboldened and in doing so, he is parting ways with the coal barons who have helped deliver him to office. He is locking horns with the industry and telling it to put on its collective thinking cap and to recognize that the earth is unnaturally warming. As such, he is supporting tougher oversight on coal plants. - Forbes, 12/6/12

Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito announced her campaign to challenge Rockefeller in 2014.  The last poll to come out of West Virginia showed her beating Rockefeller by four points.  Capito is the West Virginia Chamber Of Commerce's preferred candidate and has been for quite some time now:
Members of the business community were shocked by Rockefeller's speech, said West Virginia Chamber of Commerce President Steve Roberts said.

When a reporter called, Roberts answered his phone, "This is Capito for United States Senate headquarters." - Charleston Daily Mail, 6/20/12

Capito might be facing a serious challenger from the right though.  The Club For Growth expressed their disapproval with Capito as a candidate immediately after announcing her intention to run for Senate:

In a statement, club president Chris Chocola pointed to numerous votes that make Capito unpalatable to the conservative economic group, including her support for campaign finance reform, the auto bailout, “Cash for Clunkers,” a deal to raise the debt ceiling, and No Child Left Behind.

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“Congresswoman Capito has a long record of support of bailouts, pork, and bigger government,” Chocola said. “That’s not the formula for GOP success in U.S. Senate races.” He compared Capito to establishment Republicans who fell short in November — Rep. Denny Rehberg in Montana, Rep. Rick Berg in North Dakota and former Rep. Heather Wilson in New Mexico. - Washington Post, 11/26/12

Congressman David McKinley (R. WV) or failed Republican Senate candidate and businessman John Raese may try to challenge Capito.

It's still unknown if Rockefeller will retire or not.  If he does, we have a big bench of potential Democratic candidates who could run for Rockefeller's seat.  The list of names includes former Assistant United States Attorney and former Chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party, Mike Callaghan, Justice for the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia Robin Davis, former U.S. Senator Carte Goodwin, Congressman Nick Rahill (D. WV), West VIrginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and of course, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin.  We'll have to see what happens over the next few months.  Given the GOP's track record of screwing up winnable races, this race could be safe for us whether Rockefeller retires or not.  Personally, I would like to see him run again.  He's the only West Virginia-based politicians willing to call out the coal industry and that takes balls.  Democrats like Rockefeller take the threat of climate change seriously and want to take action, hence why Democrats aren't popular in big coal based communities these days:

If Obama was the only Democratic candidate suffering in coal country, perhaps Rockefeller could comfortably win reelection. But the recent performances of Democratic Senate candidates in neighboring counties in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Virginia cast serious doubt on the extent that coal-country voters continue to distinguish between national and state Democratic candidates.

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Buchanan County, Virginia borders West Virginia and has a similar political tradition. Before the Obama administration, Democrat Tim Kaine, then running for governor, won Buchanan County by 5 points and Republican George Allen, running for Senate, lost Buchanan County by 12 points. Earlier this month, those same candidates, facing off for Allen's old Senate seat, produced a dramatically different result. Kaine lost Buchanan County to Allen by 29 points—just 5 points better than Obama’s 34 point defeat.

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In Pennsylvania, Senator Bob Casey, a pro-life, conservative Democrat, lost traditionally Democratic counties bordering West Virginia that John Kerry managed to win eight years ago. Casey lost Greene County by 3 points in 2012, even though he carried it by 27 points in 2006.

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Across West Virginia’s northwestern border, Senator Sherrod Brown—an anti-Cap and Trade Democrat who won almost all of southeastern Ohio in 2006—performed worse than John Kerry across much of Ohio’s coal country. While Brown outperformed Kerry in 2006 by 25 points in Monroe County, a traditionally Democratic coal county bordering West Virginia, Brown actually finished 8 points worse in 2012 than Kerry did in 2004. - The New Republic, 11/29/12

I also applaud Rockefeller in fighting to preserve Medicaid and prevent any deep cuts from happening to this vital program.  He maybe in for one of the toughest campaigns since he first ran for Senate in 1984.  But Rockefeller is wealthy and can fund his own campaign so money isn't a problem.

Rockefeller has had a long and successful political career.  It's now time for him to decide if he wants another six years in the Senate or if he wants to hang it up.  

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Do you think Jay Rockefeller will retire in 2014?

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