When Senator Robert Byrd, a Democrat from West Virginia, passed away, he opened up his seat for the first time in over 50 years. With every major Senate vote hinging on one or two swing votes, the status of Byrd's seat could have huge consequences for everything from financial regulatory reform to energy reform. Who will take over for Byrd and what difference will that make?

  • No Election Until 2012, Unless GOP Challenges Ruling The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza writes, "West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) announced this afternoon that a special election to replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D) will be held in 2012, not this fall as some had speculated. ... Democrats had predicted Tennant's decision, insisting the law was clear and citing a 1994 case decided by the state Supreme Court that affirmed the idea of a delayed special. It's not immediately clear whether Republicans -- either at the state or national level -- will challenge Tennant's ruling."
  • State Will Hold Two Elections for One Senate Seat? Doug Mataconis tries to puzzle it out. "Basically what this means is the Governor of West Virginia, Democrat Joe Manchin, will be able to appoint a place holder to fill the seat who will serve from now until after Election Day 2012, at which point the winner of the 'Special Election' for Byrd's seat will become Senator and will hold that seat until January 3, 2013 when the winner of the General Election also held on Election Day 2012 will take office." He adds, "Sound confusing ? Yea, well it is."
  • Who WV Gov Could Appoint as Interim Senator Hotline's Reid Wilson predicts, "The most floated names include state Senate Pres. Earl Ray Tomblin, state Dem chair Larry Puccio, ex-state Dem chair Nick Casey, former top Manchin aide Carte Goodwin and ex-state Supreme Court Justice Richard Neely. That caretaker would step aside for Manchin in '12. Manchin is hugely popular, giving Dems a strong chance to keep the seat even as WV trends away from them at the presidential level. But GOPers aren't going to roll over and let Dems keep the seat they've held since Byrd beat then-Sen. Chapman Revercomb (R) in '58."
  • WV Gov Wants to Run in 2012 The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder writes, "Make no mistake: West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, wants to run for Senate in West Virginia, so he will likely appoint someone to fill Robert Byrd's seat who does not harbor additional ambitions. West Virginia is a weird state. The Democratic and Republican benches are very limited. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, would be the logical choice to challenge Manchin, but she's got a good shot at becoming governor if Manchin runs for Senate."
  • Good News for Dems ABC News explains, "Democrats nationwide are breathing a sigh of relief. They already face a tough slate of elections come November. Adding in a special election in socially conservative West Virginia, even if the Democrats there were favored, would have drained more resources and attention at the national level."