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September 15, 2008

A Byrd On The Air Is Worth Ties To Bush?

Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Byrd hasn't been in Washington much lately thanks to serious health problems, but that doesn't mean the West Virginia senator can't help out a former staffer when she needs it.

Byrd appears in a new advertisement for Anne Barth, the senator's former state director who is now taking on Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito. Byrd doesn't say much, but he offers an endorsement, a powerful message from the longest-serving senator in U.S. history and one of the most recognized figures in his home state.

The ad features two men sitting in rocking chairs, one of whom is hidden behind a newspaper, discussing the race. Beside pitchers of lemonade (and at least one of Byrd's books -- it could be two, we can't see the other one -- conspicuously placed between them), the men extol the virtues of Barth's life as "one of us."

Capito comes in for criticism as well. "Shelley voted with George Bush four out of five times," says one man. "That's too many times," agrees Byrd from behind his paper. "So who you for in November?" asks the first. Byrd, putting down his paper, says simply, "I'm for Anne Barth."

Capito is always atop Democrats' list of top pickup opportunities after winning the seat with just 48% in 2000. Barth has raised good money, and with Byrd's backing she has the opportunity to give Capito a real race. Is Byrd still powerful enough to drag his former aide across the line? His first ad of the year could give a clue.