(CNN) - In the 2014 battle for control of the U.S. Senate, start watching West Virginia.
Democrats from the Mountain State are rallying around Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, who Tuesday announced her bid to keep seat of retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller in party hands. Tennant launched her campaign eight months after Rockefeller announced that he wouldn't run for a sixth term in the 2014 elections.
Rockefeller and the state's other Democratic senator, former Gov. Joe Manchin, quickly endorsed Tennant.
"She is a West Virginian through and through," said Rockefeller.
"I have known Natalie and her family for many years and a dedication to public service runs deep in her blood," added Manchin.
Tennant was kicking off her campaign with five rallies across the state Tuesday and Wednesday. She touted her record and her West Virginia roots in a video put out by her campaign which showed her standing in her family's West Virginia farm where she was raised.
In the video, she also highlighted her willingness to disagree with her party, saying "when Washington Democrats take the wrong course, hurting our coal industry, I will do everything in my power to stop them, including standing up to President Barack Obama."
But national Republicans were quick to tie Tennant to the president, who lost the state to GOP nominee Mitt Romney by nearly 27 percentage points in last November's president election.
"Barack Obama doesn't have many fans in West Virginia, but his biggest one is without question Natalie Tennant. Natalie Tennant is an Obama-supporting liberal more in the mold of Harry Reid than Joe Manchin when it comes to coal and energy, jobs, and ObamaCare," said National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Rob Collins, in a statement.
Tennant's candidacy could lead to an intriguing general election matchup against seven-term Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, the leading Republican candidate. And Tennant was quick to criticize her likely GOP opponent, saying Capito "has put Washington ahead of West Virginia."
Tennant is in her second term as secretary of state. She came in third in the crowded 2011 Democratic gubernatorial primary.
"Democrats finally got a candidate in West Virginia. The bad news is Tennant's a candidate who has a lot to prove," Jennifer Duffy, senior editor at the non-partisan Cook Political Report.
Both the Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg Political Report, another leading non-partisan political handicapper, rate the race in West Virginia as lean Republican.
Next year, Democrats will try to maintain their majority in the Senate, where they currently hold a 54-46 edge (including two independents who caucus with the party) over the GOP. They hope to expand that to 55-45 following October's special Senate election in New Jersey, which they are favored to win.
But they most likely will be defending 21 of 35 seats up for grabs in November 2014.
The NRSC, in an email Tuesday afternoon, highlighted a report from the Washington Post that pointed out that a quick shot in Tennant's video was of the University of Pittsburgh, University of West Virginia University's biggest rival. The NRSC email said Tennant "stumbles out of the gate."
A Tennant campaign spokeswoman downplayed the episode, saying "there was no intentional use" of the video, called it "stock video," and said there was no identification of the location of the video when the clip was purchased.