WHEELING - The Democratic approval rating for U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan in West Virginia's 1st Congress District is beneath that of President Barack Obama, according to polling numbers provided by the campaign of Democratic congressional candidate Mike Oliverio - Mollohan's challenger in the May 11 primary election.
During the last week of January, as Oliverio prepared for a potential run for Congress, he commissioned Orion Strategies to conduct a poll of 600 Democratic voters likely to vote in the primary based on their history. Oliverio pointed to two factors in the poll's results that led him to decide to run against Mollohan, D-W.Va.
"We entered the race because we believe we can win," Oliverio said. "The polling we've seen indicates that people throughout the district want better representation."
This week, while attending the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, Manchin made comments reflecting some concern about the re-election prospects of Mollohan and of U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.
"Whether West Virginia's constituency believes they have not articulated (their support for coal) as forceful as they should, I don't know," Manchin is quoted as saying in reports.
Oliverio agrees with Manchin that coal will be the deciding issue in this year's election. Oliverio noted that while Mollohan voted against "cap and trade" climate control legislation, he indicated his opposition only in the last hours before the vote.
"Instead of a member of Congress waiting to the last hour, what West Virginia needs is a leader a fighter on an issue that is important to the state," Oliverio said. "Think of the jobs, tax revenues and low cost energy it provides."
The low-cost energy resource can give West Virginia "an incredible advantage" when recruiting business to the state, he continued.
"Not only is coal a competitive advantage, it's an advantage to Grandma down the street when she pays her bill," he said.
Oliverio also took notice of a fundraiser for Mollohan set for Monday in Charleston well outside the 1st Congressional District. Oliverio said he received an invitation. Manchin isn't slated on the program to be among the attendees.
"A representative of the people in Northern West Virginia should be supported by those in Northern West Virginia not those around the country," Oliverio said of Mollohan. "And his loyalty should be to the people of West Virginia the people of Northern West Virginia.
"The polling continues to reveal that that is not what we have right now."