The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

In the First West Virginia Poll, Shelley Moore Capito Clears a Very Low Bar


Rasmussen takes a look at the possible West Virginia Senate race, and finds that

popular Democratic Governor Joe Manchin is the early leader in hypothetical matchups with two of his possible Republican opponents. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in West Virginia, taken Thursday night, shows Manchin with 53% support, while Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito earns 39% of the vote.

Manchin’s early lead isn’t surprising; I’m reminded of this piece in Slate from 2004:

Until 2000, West Virginia had voted Republican in only three of the last 18 presidential elections: 1956, 1972, and 1984. What did those elections have in common? They featured Republican incumbents. West Virginians respect authority: religious, military, and political. That’s why the state’s congressional delegation, led by Sen. Robert Byrd, is so entrenched. West Virginia Democrats stick with the party of their fathers unless the GOP nominates an incumbent president, in which case the authority of the White House trumps the authority of family and party. The exception is 2000, when the guys at the Cargo station gave Bush, a neophyte, the five votes he needed to win the county. Why? “He had his daddy” to guide him, says Robert. They trusted the king’s son.

There are a few rare exceptions, of course; House Democrat Alan Mollohan lost his primary earlier this year.

But keep in mind that in 2006, when Robert Byrd was 89 years old and already frail, the Republican challenger managed only 33.7 percent of the vote and never polled above 34 percent. No Republican got more than 36 percent against Byrd since 1958. The only time Republicans passed 39 percent in a Senate race against either Byrd or Jay Rockefeller was in Rockefeller’s first bid in 1984.

In other words, as modest as Capito’s 39 percent seems, it is probably the best performance for a Republican in a Senate poll in about a generation.

Tags: Joe Manchin , Shelley Moore Capito


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