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Republican David McKinley leads Democrat Mike Oliverio by 4 points in West Virginia's first congressional district, according to a new poll conducted for the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee this week by Public Opinion Strategies and provided to Power Play.
While Democrats have released past polls suggesting Oliverio was in the lead for this open seat in the northern third of the Mountain State, this poll that shows McKinley up 45 percent to 41 percent is evidence that the race to replace Rep. Alan Mollohan is at least going down to the wire.
Though Democrats dominate in registration in the district, anger over Democratic proposals including President Obama's national health care law and Obama's global warming agenda is taking its toll. It helped Oliverio unseat Mollohan after 28 years in office, and may put the seat in Republican hands for the first time since 1969.
Oliverio is no doubt also hurt by his decision to say that he would support Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the House if Democrats choose as a caucus to re-nominate. This is a similar argument being used by Rep. Mike McIntrye (D-NC) - essentially that they will try to come up with another Democrat inside the caucus, but will take Pelosi if that's the result.
As direly unpopular as the speaker is in these districts, it may not wash.
With two little-known, non-incumbent candidates, the race may tend to act more like a generic ballot test. This is being borne out in other open seats too. While Republicans initially lamented not having Democratic incumbents against whom to run, having two new candidates may tend to make the races nationalized affairs rather than local battles.
Mollohan, who had battled corruption charges for years, may have been a special case, but as it becomes clear that this is more an anti-Democrat year than an "anti-incumbent," open seat races may lean toward the GOP.