Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the Republican many in the GOP camp had hoped would challenge Sen. Joe Manchin (D) earlier this year, said she hasn't given any thought to 2012 yet but she's keeping her options open.
"I'm not ruling it out by any stretch," Capito said of a run at Manchin in two years when he seeks a full six-year term. "But I have given no thought to it."
A Senate run isn't Capito's only 2012 option. She would also be the leading GOP contender for the governor's mansion should she decide to seek Manchin's old job.
Noting that the state is currently "in turmoil over what happens with the governor's race," Capito said the only thing she will say definitively is that she has no intention of running in a special election for governor if it were to occur sometime this year.
Lawmakers in the state are once again debating whether state law requires a special election to fill the remainder of Manchin's term as governor or whether Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) can remain in office until 2012.
Mirroring the fight that ensued after the death of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), several lawmakers are arguing for a special gubernatorial election later this year.
National Republicans, meanwhile, are already chomping at the bit for another shot at Manchin in 2012. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is keeping up the leading attack on Manchin throughout 2010 — that he will prove to be a rubber-stamp for the president and Senate Democrats.
New numbers released earlier this week from West Virginia pollster Mark Blankenship showed Manchin and Capito to be the most popular politicians in the state.
A full 80 percent of voters hold a favorable view of Manchin, even after his bruising Senate fight against Republican businessman John Raese. Capito is right behind him: 77 percent of voters hold a favorable view of her.
Despite a closer-than-expected race between Manchin and Raese this fall, Capito said she has no regrets that she decided against jumping into the contest.