WASHINGTON, D.C. — A political writer for “The Washington Post” considers the race for the U.S. House in West Virginia’s Third Congressional District a toss-up, with two months to go until the May Primary Election and about eight months remaining before the November General Election.
Aaron Blake with “The Fix” said a Tarrance Group poll the National Republican Congressional Committee released earlier this week got his attention.
It showed Cabell County Senator Evan Jenkins, a Republican, lead longtime Congressman Nick Rahall, a Democrat, 54 percent to 40 percent.
“I kind of take these polls that are done by partisan pollsters for campaigns and assume that there’s, maybe, a few points more favorable to them, more favorable to the candidate that they’re surveying for,” said Blake on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
However, “This poll really reminded me of some polls that we saw in 2010 when a lot of these longtime incumbents, like Rahall, who had been surviving in these conservative districts started to see similar polling numbers,” he said.
Rahall was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976 and has been reelected every two years since then. Last year, Jenkins changed his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican and launched a Congressional campaign aimed at the incumbent.
Jenkins has had some help. Blake said, since late 2013, conservative groups — including Americans for Prosperity which the Koch brothers fund — have spent $1.4 million on political ads in West Virginia and most of those ads have targeted Rahall.
Spending on Rahall’s behalf is nowhere close to that amount. But, earlier this week, the House Majority PAC did release a second television ad defending Rahall. In total, a representative of that group said $225,000, so far, had gone into answering the attacks on Rahall.
Blake said the Republicans want West Virginia’s Third District.
“It’s pretty clear that they’ve made this seat an important one for them in this election and a lot of that has to do with the fact that, once they get rid of Rahall, this is a Republican seat for the foreseeable future,” he said.
“There’s a premium on defeating him this year, more so than a lot of other candidates that they might have another chance to go after in future elections.”
West Virginia’s Third District is the second most conservative district, represented by a Democrat, in the entire U.S. House.
Last week, Rahall was added to “Frontline,” an incumbent protection program run through the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.