Rockefeller, 75, has not said whether he'll seek a sixth term in the Senate, but Capito has the name recognition and fundraising ability to mount an effective campaign against an incumbent.
The Club for Growth wasted no time listing what it believes are her numerous faults. They likened her to candidates such as Rick Berg of North Dakota and Rep. Denny Rehberg of Montana, saying that while they were supposedly the most electable of the Republican candidates, they lost Senate races in Republican-leaning states.
"Her candidacy will undoubtedly be cheered by the GOP establishment, and dire warnings will be issued against any 'divisive' primary challenges, lest other candidates hurt Capito's chances of winning," said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola. "The problem is that Congresswoman Capito's record looks a whole lot like the establishment candidates who lost this year."
But many of the Club for Growth's candidates in recent elections also have stumbled badly. Richard Mourdock lost in Indiana after bouncing veteran Sen. Richard Lugar in the primary. In the 2010 elections, the organization threw its considerable financial backing behind Sharron Angle in Nevada and Ken Buck in Colorado, both losers to vulnerable Democratic incumbents.
Moran said the criticism of Capito from the Club for Growth was not unexpected.
"This is going to be decided not by the NRSC and not by the Club for Growth; it's going to be decided by the people of West Virginia," he said.
In the last election cycle, Democratic leaders in Washington didn't mind playing favorites during the primaries, heavily recruiting candidates they thought had the best chance of winning, while shunning some they did not see as formidable. GOP leaders, in contrast, sat back as their potential nominees fought it out.
Moran said figuring out the NRSC's role in the coming primaries will take a couple of months, and said his organization will play a role in some states.