Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., is the early, prohibitive favorite to succeed Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller, according to the results of a GOP poll released Monday.
The survey, conducted by the Charleston-based Mark Blankenship Enterprises, shows Capito with an 18-point lead over Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall, 55 percent to 37 percent. Pollster Mark Blankenship is a Republican strategist and one-time aide to former Republican Gov. Cecil Underwood.
Results of the poll were first reported by MetroNews, an in-state radio news network. Blankenship appeared on the program "Talkline" on Monday and later shared poll results with Hotline On Call.
A majority of Mountain State voters, 63 percent, approve of the job Capito is doing in Congress, including 54 percent of Democrats, the poll shows. "[Her] approval rating is impressive when one considers her numbers in the two parts of the state in which she has never run a campaign or served the citizens," said Blankenship.
Capito's father, Arch Moore, was a former congressman and two-time governor. He plead guilty to corruption charges after his third term as governor ended.
Capito entered the race even before Rockefeller announced last month he would not run for a sixth term. Thus far, no Democrats have entered the race, but the poll shows Rahall would be the favorite in a contested primary. Matched up against state Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis, former interim Sen. Carte Goodwin and attorney Ralph Baxter, Rahall holds a big lead among Democratic poll respondents, 37 percent to 16 percent over Davis, who was second. Goodwin, who replaced the late Robert Byrd for a brief time in the Senate, earned 6 percent, and Baxter garnered just 2 percent.
The poll was conducted Feb. 3-5, surveying 610 registered voters, 52 percent of whom were Democrats. The poll was conducted for West Virginians for Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, MetroNews reported.
The margin of error for the full sample is plus-or-minus 4 percentage points, while the margin of error for the Democratic primary matchup is plus-or-minus 5.5 percentage points.