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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> House -- West Virginia -- 02

WV 02: Capito Safe

She never has an easy race, but Republican Rep. Shelly Moore Capito looks like she's cruising this year. A DailyKos/Research 2000 poll conducted 10/6-8 surveyed 400 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4.9% and tested Capito and Democrat Ann Barth.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Capito....53 / 18 / 84 / 57 / 56 / 50
Barth.....39 / 78 / 5 / 34 / 37 / 41

McCain....48 / 14 / 83 / 47 / 52 / 44
Obama.....41 / 76 / 5 / 42 / 39 / 43

Even with Senator Robert Byrd's endorsement and appearance in a recent Barth ad (Barth used to serve as Byrd's state director), the Democrat has a long way to go to catch up, and she may not have enough time.

Dems Target Capito In WV

Though the state has voted Republican in the last two presidential elections, West Virginia remains a heavily Democratic bastion. The state legislature is dominated by Democrats, and the party controls the governor's mansion, both Senate seats and two of three House districts. As the party faces what could be one of its better landscapes in recent memory, Anne Barth, a former aide to senior Senator Robert Byrd, has Democratic hopes up in the battle for the lone Republican seat.

The state's Second District, which cuts through the middle of West Virginia from the Ohio River to the eastern panhandle, has long been a congressional battleground. Encompassing voters from the extreme exurbs of Washington, D.C. all the way to the blue-collar rust belt, with Charleston in between, the area covers a wide swath of land and of political and cultural ideology.

In 2000, incumbent Democrat Bob Wise left his seat to run a successful bid for governor, vacating a seat he held since the early 1980's. In his place, voters picked Republican Shelley Moore Capito, a relative moderate who, because of her tenuous hold on the district, has been allowed to vote against the GOP conference more than most. Capito barely won her initial election, by just two points over a self-funded opponent, but she's faced easier re-election bids since.

This year, Democrats think Barth may be the candidate to unseat the state's lone Republican. In Washington Monday, Barth raised over $100,000 for her campaign with the help of fellow West Virginia Democrats Alan Mollohan and Nick Rahall, along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Roll Call's John McArdle reported. The DCCC also named Barth to the "Red to Blue" program that targets vulnerable GOP-held districts and assures candidates financial help and the support of mentors already in Congress.

Capito, who had raised $731,000 through December and retained $643,000 in the bank, will benefit from the year's presidential contest. The district will likely cast their ballots for John McCain in November -- President Bush won the seat by 15 points in 2004 and 10 points in 2000 -- and the increased turnout could help the incumbent keep her hold on the district.

Capito also has good relations with the United Mine Workers, an important part of the Democratic base in the district, which has offered her their endorsement before, after she fought the Labor Department over regulations that would have weakened current standards on coal dust. She also helped out the union by authoring legislation on health care for retired miners.

Barth faces an uphill climb in her bid to unseat Capito, but with national Democrats' help, she will ensure the race is not an easy one for the incumbent. From Washington to Ohio, voters in many states will watch the battle play out in expensive television ads, and given the amounts both candidates are raising, it could prove a fierce battle. If Democrats truly sweep in November, Barth could find herself commuting to Washington. If Capito continues her moderate streak, though, she may just hang on.