It didn't take long for outside cash to come flooding into West Virginia in support of a candidate for Congress. What at first seems surprising is the beneficiary - Rep. Nick Rahall, the Democrat representing the southern counties in the Third Congressional District.
Here in the First District, it seems obvious the Democrats would be throwing their money away. Every indicator I can think of points to incumbent Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., walloping Democrat challenger Glen B. Gainer III. But there are races in the state's two other congressional districts.
Operatives at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began reserving media time this week, allocating millions of dollars to support House of Representatives candidates throughout the country. They have earmarked $925,000 to back Rahall, according to the Associated Press.
Rahall is in trouble, some analysts say. Just before the primary election, Larry Sabato, whose "Crystal Ball" predictions have wide credibility, changed his forecast for West Virginia's Third District. He now rates it "leans Republican." Real Clear Politics calls the race a tossup. That's good news for GOP candidate Evan Jenkins.
President Barack Obama's war on coal and reasonable electricity prices is Rahall's Achilles' heel, of course. Voters in the southern coal counties have re-elected him for many years, but things are different now for Rahall, who supported Obama's war on coal before he opposed it. His backing for Obamacare, which arguably is more unpopular in West Virginia than in any other state, isn't helping.
Democrats in the Third District are notably lukewarm about Rahall. He won the May primary election - but total turnout for it in his race was just 55,587 voters. During his last primary, in 2012, 66,745 voters went to the polls to show their support.
So why are the Democrat powers-that-be pouring money into that race instead of, say, the closer one in West Virginia's Second District, between Republican Alex Mooney and Democrat Nick Casey?
Well, as I've noted previously, money talks in politics, and the Democrats may smell blood in the Third District. Here's why: In his last campaign finance filing with the Federal Election Commission, Jenkins showed $439,354 in cash on hand.
Rahall had $942,309. Add the $925,000 committed by the DCCC and that gives him four times the resources Jenkins has. Democrat leaders may reason that with that edge, they can overcome Rahall's negatives among voters.
But Jenkins has plenty of time before the November election to close the money gap. And national Republican officials may decide to go toe-to-toe with their Democrat counterparts in flooding the Third District with cash.
If you're going to bet on that race, wait until you know more about the money. But if Jenkins ends up with anywhere near the resources Rahall has, he'll win.
Without a massive edge in funding, Rahall won't be able to convince the many Democrat voters now thinking they may sit out the election to go to the polls and vote for him.
What about the Second District? Had Rep. Shelley Capito, R-W.Va., been running for re-election, it would be safe for the Republicans. But she's running for the Senate.
Earlier this month, Republicans nominated Alex Mooney for the Second District House seat. Frankly, he's got an uphill battle ahead of him to beat the Democrat nominee, Nick Casey.
Casey is working hard to get the Obama albatross off his neck. As state Democrat Party chairman in 2008, Casey backed Obama enthusiastically. Now, he says he's "disappointed" in the president.
Perhaps so - but Obama's war on coal and Obamacare should have come as no surprise to anyone who was paying attention in 2008. This newspaper predicted before he was elected that he would attack the coal industry. He made his feelings very clear.
So Casey now is forced to admit that his dedication to the Democrat Party blinded him to the harm Obama would do to West Virginia, if elected. That will help Mooney in November.
Mike Myer is executive editor of The Intelligencer and the Wheeling News-Register. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org