There was a point last week in the campaign for West Virginia’s 3rdCongressional District where it felt as though we were seven days before the general election instead of seven months.
Thursday morning, incumbent Democratic Congressman Nick Rahall and Republican challenger Evan Jenkins each released new hard-hitting TV ads.
Rahall’s ad was a testimonial by United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts criticizing the heavy third party spending on behalf of Jenkins.
“It makes me mad when billionaires are spending millions of dollars telling lies about Nick Rahall,” Roberts said. “Nick is our friend.”
Jenkins’ ad was more even more direct.
“Nick Rahall’s attacks on Evan Jenkins -- non-partisan fact checks say they are bogus, out and out lies,” says the announcer. The voice goes on to call Rahall “a lying politician just like Obama.”
So the two leading candidates are already liberally using the “L” word and we’re still in April!
The tension was evident last week when Jenkins and Rahall appeared on stage together for a Q-and-A session at Huntington High School.
Interestingly, the candidate who more often got the biggest response from the students was Richard Ojeda.
The retired Army major has little chance of upending Rahall in the May primary election, but his passion and rapid fire answers made him a crowd favorite.
Meanwhile, Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports that the leading Democratic super PAC, the House Majority PAC, is taking a triage approach to the midterm elections.
“House Democrats, battered by Koch brothers’ ads and facing a grim outlook for the midterms, are providing the clearest indication yet of how they plan to respond: by shoring up imperiled incumbents and only the most promising challengers, but likely leaving some of the party’s upstart hopefuls to fend for themselves,” Isenstadt writes.
Rahall, a 19-term incumbent, falls into the “imperiled” category. The National Republican Congressional Committee has been touting a March poll showing Jenkins up 54-40.
Rahall supporters dismiss that as Republican hyperbole, but they don’t release any of their polling numbers.
Isenstadt, who has spoken with Democrats who have access to the polls, reports that Rahall “now trails his Republican opponent significantly.”
One Democratic operative told me, however, that the news is not all bad. The source said they’re encouraged that the race is still as close as it is after the battering Rahall has taken by a barrage of Koch brothers’ ads and before Rahall has had a chance to expose Jenkins’ weaknesses.
We’re in for a grueling race in WV-3. Political campaigns are often characterized as more marathon than sprint; pacing is important for the long haul. However, Rahall-Jenkins is already at sprinter speed and we’re still a long way from the finish line.
Kercheval is host of Talkline, broadcast statewide by the Metronews Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon weekdays. Listen locally on WCHS 580 AM.