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Political analyst says Rahall could be in for the race of his career

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With more than a year to go until the 2014 General Election, there is some movement in the race for Congress in West Virginia’s Third Congressional District, a U.S. House seat Congressman Nick Rahall has held for more than three decades.

The Cook Political Report recently moved the Third District from “leans Democrat” to “toss-up” and said Rahall could be in for “the race of his career.”

Cabell County State Senator Evan Jenkins changed political parties this year to run for the Republican nomination for Congress in the Third District in May and, possibly, challenge Rahall in November 2014.

“Evan Jenkins is a stronger candidate, at least on paper so far, than the past several Republicans who have made a strong run for this seat,” said David Wasserman with the Cook Political Report on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

The Report said, “Rahall won’t have President (Barack) Obama to contend with on the ballot next year, but the Administration’s decision to move forward with new energy regulations ensure the prevalence of the EPA in this race.”

Wasserman said Rahall’s district is the second worst performing U.S. House district for President Obama that a Democrat still holds.

The Jenkins campaign has released its own poll from Harper Polling, a Republican polling group, that showed Rahall had the support of 46 percent of voters to 42 percent for Jenkins.  A total of 44 percent of those questioned have an unfavorable opinion of Rahall, who was first elected to the U.S. House in 1976.

“We wanted to get an honest assessment of where we started and so, I think, that’s what this is,” said Andy Sere, a Republican consultant with the Evan Jenkins campaign, about the poll.  He said the numbers make it clear that there is time for Jenkins to gain ground using a couple of methods.

“One thing, Evan’s got to get out there and campaign which he’s excited about doing.  Two, we’ve got to raise the funds necessary to get our message out,” said Sere on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball still has the race leaning to Rahall, while Stuart Rothenberg has it “Democrat favored.”

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