Rep. David McKinley, who represents West Virginia's First Congressional District, will have a race on his hands next year. He'll win it.
State Auditor Glen Gainer has announced he will run against McKinley. He's probably the best the Democrats can do as a candidate against McKinley - but that isn't saying much.
McKinley, a Republican from Wheeling, is in his second term in the House. His landslide re-election victory last year, against Wheeling Democrat Sue Thorn, should not be taken as an indication of how well he'll do in 2014. Thorn, who garnered just 38 percent of the vote, had virtually no campaign money and no statewide name recognition.
Gainer is different, of course. He's in his sixth term as state auditor. At first glance, that sounds like a man with a solid statewide base of support.
Not really. Gainer won his first three elections for auditor, in 1992, 1996 and 2000, with no Republican opponent. The same thing happened in 2008.
In 2004, Gainer walloped his GOP opponent, Lisa Thornburg of Milton, who, like Sue Thorn, had no name recognition. And remember, 2004 was a time when West Virginia Democrats still liked people at the top of their party's ticket.
Last year, Gainer won re-election by whipping Republican Larry Faircloth, by a 57.4 percent to 42.6 percent vote total. Again, however, Faircloth was an unknown to most voters outside his home in the Eastern Panhandle. The fact he did as well as he did can be explained mostly by the intense dislike many Mountain State voters have for President Barack Obama.
So what happens next year when Gainer, still with the Obama albatross on his party's back, takes on McKinley?
Last year's election provides a clue - but only that. More on why that's so later.
Last year, McKinley received 133,809 votes in the First District's 20 counties. Gainer netted 125,054. Both were running against little-known opponents.
Registered Democrats in the 20 counties hold an enormous edge over registered Republicans, 193,571 to 128,620. That ought to be cheering to Gainer.
But wait a moment. That means that last fall, McKinley received 5,189 more votes than the total number of Republicans in his district.
Precisely. Also in the district are 71,580 voters registered as "no party." Clearly, McKinley was supported by most of those who went to the polls.
He also picked up tons of votes from Democrats.
Here's the bottom line for vote counters: There are roughly the same number of registered Democrats in the First District as there are Republicans and "no party" voters combined. To win, Gainer would have to pick up all the Democrat votes in 2014, plus a good share of the "no party" folks. That isn't going to happen.
Why? I told you we'd get back to that.
There are three reasons Gainer will lose next fall:
1. More and more West Virginians are going to become upset about Obamacare. That program isn't just the signature achievement of Gainer's Democrat Party president. Look at Democrats in the House and Senate. It's their baby, too.
2. The war on coal and reasonably priced electricity. Many of those formerly reliable labor union voters - especially the United Mine Workers - on which Democrats used to be able to count will be voting for McKinley or staying home next November.
3. This isn't a state election. Gainer has a substantial amount of power among Democrat Party leaders in West Virginia. But in November 2014, voters will be selecting someone to either oppose Barack Obama or support him. McKinley will be the safer bet in many minds, regardless of how much Gainer tries to backpedal on party loyalty.
So, simply because it's McKinley vs. Gainer, it'll be a fight. But Gainer will lose.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mike Myer is executive editor of The Intelligencer and the Wheeling News-Register. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com