Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito begins the race to replace retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., in an extremely strong position, according to an automated poll conducted by the new GOP polling firm Harper Polling.
The poll tested both partiesâ€™ primary fields and theoretical general-election matchups. What is clear from this early read is that Capito is well-known and, at least for now, is well-liked.
On the Democratic side, Rep. Nick J. Rahall II led the field of potential candidates and appears to be the strongest general-election nominee against Capito. In a general-election test, 50 percent of respondents said they would support Capito, while 32 percent said they backed Rahall. Eighteen percent were undecided.
The numbers slide for Democrats when Capito is matched up against former Sen. Carte P. Goodwin and state Supreme Court of Appeals Justice Robin Davis, neither of whom is very well-known statewide. Capito took 53 percent to Goodwinâ€™s 19 percent. Twenty-eight percent were undecided in that matchup. Against Davis, Capito took 51 percent and Davis had 24 percent. Twenty-five percent were undecided in that pairing. Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, another possible Democratic contender, was not included in the survey. Tennant ran for governor in 2011, but she placed a disappointing third in the Democratic primary.
Fifty-five percent of respondents had a favorable impression of Capito, while 28 percent viewed her unfavorably. Sixteen percent of those surveyed had never heard of her or had no opinion.
This is an extremely early survey, and the contours of the race are likely to change in the next year and a half. Capito has not felt the full brunt of negative television advertising in years. West Virginia is also a cheap state to advertise in, so name identification wonâ€™t be a problem for the eventual Democratic nominee.
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