BROOKHAVEN, W.Va – If you don’t look in the weeds, sometimes you miss the signs.
Late this summer, along the edges of this Mountain State town, a homemade sign jutted from the edge of a country road. It read, simply: “Change is coming.”
A few miles west, toward Coopers Rock State Forest, another sign almost hidden by a cornfield read, “Change is in the air.”
West Virginians always have had a distinct disdain for big government, yet poverty has kept them dependent on the one political party that provided just enough free stuff to lock them into voting for it.
A new generation willing to free itself from that tradition, along with new opportunities in energy, has put change in motion, however. Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, is poised to crush Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, a Democrat, in the race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D).
West Virginia is not the only state sending signals to the political class in Washington that the Senate majority is tilting Republican, much more significantly than they understood.
Republican Scott Brown, the single-term Massachusetts senator who moved across the street to New Hampshire, has relentlessly kept up his populist message of hard work, not hard ideology; he is heading toward an upset in the Granite State’s Senate race that could put the conventional-wisdom pundits on their heels.
Most political watchers in Washington are tethered to polls that shift 2 points in either direction and think they’ve understood this cycle. But they haven’t understood the signs just below the horizon, literally.