"I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat."
- Will Rogers
Being a Democrat in Washington, D.C., can't be easy these days. Yes, Democrats control the White House and the Senate. But consider:
They've had to fuss and fume over a continuing budget resolution and huff and puff over raising the nation's debt ceiling.
Their legislative record is a trail of broken promises. The nation is in decline everywhere you look, and their trophy legislation, Obamacare, is turning rancid.
Their Big Kahuna (Barack Obama) has embarrassed everybody because he can't lead. He gives us child-like petulance, instead.
Harry Reid, the boss of the Senate, is like an unrepentant Ebenezer Scrooge. "Bah! Humbug!" must roll off his tongue.
Finally, the party's moral authority is pretty thin right now. Remember the Benghazi murders and the cover-up? And the on-going IRS scandal and the NSA lies and the curbs on press freedom. Democrats show no inclination to do the right thing by establishing accountability and punishing wrong-doers.
Enter now Natalie Tennant, Democrat and secretary of state in West Virginia. She wants to go to Washington.
She's running to replace Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller in 2014, and she's likely to be the party's nominee. She probably will face GOP Rep. Shelley Moore Capito in 2014.
Tennant sounds like a traditional Democrat (attacking Capito while ignoring administration scandals), but because she's in West Virginia, she has two special problems ? President Obama and his war on coal. She's trying to nuance her way around and through both.
Last month, when she kicked off her campaign, she said, "I will fight any Republican or any Democrat - including President Barack Obama - who tries to kill our energy jobs, whether they are coal, natural gas, wind or water." She added that she would "push for a partnership in which the government promotes coal exports through sensible trade policies."
Hmmmm. A careful reading suggests she could be backing the Obama administration's domestic war on coal while pushing coal exports as a way of shoring up coal industry employment.
Tennant's past may provide clues on where she stands.
Let's go back to 2008. She enthusiastically supported Candidate Obama. OK. But remember Obama's speech in January 2008 when he talked about "global warming" and the need for cap and trade?
A smug Obama: "If somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can - it's just that it will bankrupt them, because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted."
Does Tennant supporting Obama signal that she agreed with his agenda for coal? There's no indication that she didn't, and the question is magnified by the fact that she backed Obama again in 2012.
Obama's her guy. Or at least he was.
Another thing: Rockefeller has endorsed her candidacy. He said last month that he views her as a worthy successor, "a person who cares for our state and will fight for the needs of our people as hard and as steadfastly as I have always tried to do."
Nice, but let's not forget that Rockefeller hasn't been a particularly reliable friend of coal.
Last year, he upset a lot of West Virginians by speaking and voting against a measure that would have prevented the Environmental Protection Agency from setting the first federal standards to reduce air pollution from power plants.
West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin voted for the resolution, saying that the EPA was being "unreasonable" and its standards would raise utility rates and throw thousands of people out of work.
So where does Tennant stand? Really stand? Hard to say, but she definitely likes Obama, and she has the endorsement of Rockefeller.
One thing is sure: If she tries to walk a fine line between West Virginia and Washington on coal, she's in for a very long and very hard fight.