31 October 2008

Feds Probing W.Va. Liquor Agency?

The West Virginia agency that regulates the sale of all alcoholic beverages within the state has been subpoenaed by federal investigators, The Charleston Gazette reports.

Citing unnamed sources, The Gazette reports that "the investigation might involve allegations of (Alcohol Beverage Control Administration) employees receiving gifts from liquor distributors. They indicated that as many as five ABCA officials might have been subpoenaed."

WSAZ-TV also has an item, as does MetroNews.

Polling Points to Dem Wins in Statewide Races...Except McGraw's

This week's Public Policy Polling survey also included several statewide races. The biggest news there: "It looks like West Virginia is going to have a new Attorney General. Republican challenger Dan Greear leads incumbent Darrell McGraw now by a margin of 50-42."

The other Democrats in the races polled fared much better:

  • Joe Manchin is "cruising to reelection with a 69-27 advantage."
  • Jay Rockefeller "should be headed back to the US Senate, as he leads 58-40."
  • Natalie Tennant is up 58-31 for secretary of state.
  • Gus Douglass leads 50-41 for agriculture commissioner.
PPP polled 2,128 voters Wednesday and Thursday. The margin of error is +/-2.1%. The probability is virtually 100%.

The polling memo breaks down the results by whether or not the voter has already cast an absentee or early ballot. It also offers detailed results by gender, party affiliation, race and age.

PPP: McCain 55%, Obama 42% in West Virginia

Public Policy Polling surveyed 2,128 voters Wednesday and Thursday. The margin of error is +/-2.1%. The probability is virtually 100%.

McCain has picked up 5% from undecideds since PPP polled in the state earlier this month, Thursday's memo notes.

"Obama was never going to be able to win the state without exceeding 70% of the Democratic vote, and in this survey he leads just 65-31 among folks within his own party," it said.

“West Virginia was always going to be an uphill battle for Barack Obama,” adds the firm's president, Dean Debnam. “He’ll certainly be more competitive here in the general election than he was during the primary but it would be quite a shock if he’s able to take the state or even get it within five points.”

30 October 2008

Election 2008: President

  • The Cook Political Report has downgraded the competitiveness of the race in West Virginia from "Toss Up to Lean Republican."
  • Larry Sabato includes West Virginia in Republican John McCain's column in his latest projection, titled "The Last Word -- Almost," which projects McCain winning 174 electoral votes to Democrat Barack Obama's 364.
  • MetroNews' Talkline hears from Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean about Obama's chances in West Virginia and the overall state of the campaign. With audio.

Quote of the Day

"Me winning West Virginia would just be the same as putting a cherry on top of a beautiful cake."

-- quote attributed to presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., by Gov. Joe Manchin, as reported by the Charleston Daily Mail.

Election 2008: Congress

  • U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, and Democratic challenger Anne Barth squared off Wednesday at an Eastern Panhandle forum. Those with coverage include The Journal of Martinsburg, The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown (Md.), and MetroNews (with audio).
  • Larry Sabato has downgraded the competitiveness of the 2nd District match-up to "Republican Hold" in an analysis that predicts the GOP will otherwise lose 26 to 35 seats in the U.S. House.

Voting in West Virginia (Updated)

A California-based group has posted a video that shows Jackson County's clerk demonstrating the sort of touch-screen voting machine that has prompted complaints of vote switching.

The video appears to show the device switching votes even after the clerk re-calibrates it, as election officials recommend be done in such situations. But the secretary of state's office tells both The Charleston Gazette and Public Broadcasting that the video "is false and defamatory, and is threatening to file a complaint against Video the Vote with the U.S. Department of Justice."

County Clerk Jeff Waybright agrees. "The part they are showing is a total misrepresentation and a fraud," he told The Gazette. "I misspoke during a part of that video. But the machine actually voted properly."

As Public Broadcasting explains, Waybright thought the machine was still mis-calibrated during the demonstration "but it’s not. It turns out the machine is doing what it’s supposed to do. It allowed him to override his straight Republican ticket because he selected (Ralph) Nader for president."

But an official with Video the Vote told Public Broadcasting that “If this is the guy who’s instructed with making sure the machines are calibrated and making sure voters know how to cast their ballots, and he can’t even get it right, how are they expecting voters to get it right on election day?”

The group has since posted the full half-hour interview with Waybright. Public Broadcasting also has audio of its report.

Update: The Associated Press has a story, as does the Charleston Daily Mail.

W.Va. Races Hit with Large, Last-Minute Ad Buys (Updated)

The Associated Press reports that the state Chamber of Commerce, with help from its national counterpart and allied groups, have spent nearly $700,000 on ads attacking Attorney General Darrell McGraw, a Democrat.

AP also reports that this chamber-led coalition has plunked down another $403,000 "on ads promoting Beth Walker, the sole Republican candidate in the two-seat state Supreme Court race."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, meanwhile, has reserved $775,000 worth of ad airtime to support party nominee Anne Barth in her race against Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, The Charleston Gazette reports.

But Capito is not without surrogates: the National Association of Realtors Political Action Committee "has spent nearly $700,000 on TV ads and direct mail advertising promoting Capito's re-election," that article said.

Update: W.Va. Chamber President Steve Roberts talks to MetroNews' Talkline about the ad buys (with audio), and an official from McGraw's office responds (also with audio).

Update II: The chamber has hired Mentzer Media Services, the chief producer of the Swift Boat ad campaign credited with assisting in the defeat of John Kerry in 2004.

29 October 2008

W.Va. and the Road to the White House

The electoral projectors at FiveThirtyEight.com crunch an array of West Virginia statistics to weigh the presidential race in the state.

The analysis concludes that "In the context of a national landslide, West Virginia -- a state that gave its vote to Michael Dukakis in 1988 -- could go blue once again," but that "beyond the high Democratic partisan identification, Obama has few statistical factors working in his favor. "

The Financial Meltdown in W.Va.

The Charleston Daily Mail lists billions of dollars worth of projects slated for West Virginia that have been delayed or otherwise threatened by the financial turmoil affecting bond and credit markets.

It earlier reported that five banks operating in the state "announced they have either accepted or have been approved for federal cash infusions as part of the $700 billion rescue plan approved by Congress on Oct. 3." The paper updates that story today.

Election 2008: Mid-Week Roundup

  • Former President Bill Clinton's scheduled visit to Beckley has been postponed to Saturday, MetroNews and others report.
  • Republican candidate for governor Russ Weeks tells The Register-Herald of Beckley and the Charleston Daily Mail that he is launching a TV ad statewide in the final days of that contest. The latter notes that Weeks had a campaign balance of $12,903 as of Oct. 19.

28 October 2008

Election 2008: One Week To Go

  • The Associated Press' Vicki Smith tours West Virginia's southern counties and while "racial slurs have hardly disappeared here," finds that "many voters in this 95 percent white, decidedly working-class state -- and presumably, elsewhere in America -- are fed up with a lousy economy and current leaders, and Democrats hope they will re-embrace their blue-collar and party roots, swallow any misgivings about race and support a black man for president."
  • (Update) Public Broadcasting has also elicited opinions from around the state regarding the presidential race. With audio.
  • MetroNews reports that the West Virginia Coal Association isn't endorsing a presidential candidate, while a group of veterans has formed to support Democrat Barack Obama.
  • The GOP's candidate challenging state Attorney General Darrell McGraw tells the Charleston Daily Mail that "at least $43,000 donated to McGraw's campaign this election comes either directly or indirectly from lawyers who've benefited from state lawsuits."
  • Public Broadcasting has an item on the AG race as well, with audio and citing a recent poll that found McGraw ahead of Republican Dan Greear by just 2%.
  • (Update) Politico reports that "The Republican National Committee buys TV time in deep-red MONTANA and WEST VIRGINIA, a sign the party is scrambling to stave off a historic landslide a week from today." 'Tough environment,' one Republican official "says sardonically" in the item.

Voting in West Virginia

  • Secretary of State Betty Ireland tells The Associated Press and others that additional testing has cleared touch-screen voting machines that have been dogged by a handful of complaints since early voting began Oct. 15. County clerks tell AP they're issuing stylus pointers to voters to help them tap the screens in the correct places. Others with coverage include The Charleston Gazette, MetroNews and The Register-Herald of Beckley.
  • The Charleston Daily Mail highlights new U.S. citizens allowed to take their oaths earlier than scheduled, so they can vote Nov. 4.
  • AP also reports that nearly 67,300 West Virginians cast in-personal early votes by Saturday, citing figures from Ireland's office. Democrats have outnumbered Republican among early voters by approximately 2-to-1, reflecting their shares of the overall voter rolls. Early voting ends on Nov. 1, a Saturday.

Byrd Again in the Bulls-Eye? (Updated)

Citing "Democratic insiders," Politico reports today that "Majority Leader Harry Reid is quietly preparing to ease 90-year-old Sen. Robert C. Byrd from his perch as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee."

Byrd, who turns 91 next month, "has been hospitalized several times in the past year, and Democratic senators and leadership aides say he is no longer capable of running the powerful Appropriations Committee," the article said.

Politico noted that such ouster speculation has dogged Byrd previously this year, adding that Reid, D-Nev., has previously supported his desire to remain chairman.

Now, the article said, Reid proposes that history's longest-serving U.S. senator "would become chairman emeritus, likely retaining coveted office space in the Capitol near the Senate floor," under Reid's alleged plan.

Fellow long-timer Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, would take over as chair, while Byrd "would also remain Senate president pro tempore, which leaves him third in line to the presidency even though his health now makes even routine public appearances both arduous and awkward," the article said.

Politico also observed that "Byrd traveled to Charleston last week to introduce Delaware Sen. Joe Biden at a morning rally, and he struggled to get through his written remarks — though his partisan spirit was still obvious, as was the home crowd’s affection for him."

Update: Byrd has responded, The Associated Press reports. "I am disappointed that, according to press accounts, the Majority Leader is talking to others about the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee," Byrd told AP in a statement. "This is the sort of Washington back-room gossip which ill serves the Democratic Party in a year when Democratic unity should be paramount."

Reuters/Zogby: McCain 50%, Obama 40% in W.Va.

Conducted Oct. 23-26, the Zogby survey of 600 likely voters found 9% undecided.

The margin of error was +/- 4.1%, while its probability was close to 100%.

MSNBC speculates on the Democrat's chances in twice-red West Virginia, recapping Friday's visit by running mate Joe Biden.

Bill Clinton Coming to W.Va. (Updated)

Former President Bill Clinton plans to stump for fellow Democrat Barack Obama in Beckley on Saturday (updated; the visit was pushed back from Thursday), The Associated Press reports.

The morning appearance at Word Memorial Park is free to the public and does not require a ticket, the Obama campaign announced.

27 October 2008

Daily Kos: McCain 49%, Obama 43% in W.Va.

The leading liberal political blog enlisted Research 2000 to survey 600 likely voters Oct. 22-24.

The margin of error is +/- 4%, and the probability is 93.76%.

West Virginia and the Road to the White House

Bloomberg is the latest to report from West Virginia on the Obama campaign's stepped-up efforts to wrest the state's five electoral votes from McCain's win column.

"West Virginia is still likely to end up in the Republican column on Election Day, and until recently, the state wasn't even on Obama's radar screen," the article said. But citing recent polling and interviews, it adds that "To close the gap, the Obama campaign is counting on the economy trumping cultural and social questions."

Election 2008: Monday Roundup

  • The Associated Press details the pre-general finance reports from West Virginia's congressional candidates. Highlights include Democrat Anne Barth outraising Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, during the filing period, and Sen. Jay Rockefeller collecting a total of $6.7 million toward his re-election bid.
  • AP also talks to Democrat Natalie Tennant and Republican Charles Minimah about their race for secretary of state.
  • The Journal of Martinsburg offers separate coverage of Republican and Democratic rallies in the Eastern Panhandle. The latter featured former Govs. Bob Wise and Gaston Caperton, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Barth. The GOP event featured a prediction by the Berkeley County part chairman that "in the not too distant future, Republicans will hold all of the major offices, including governor, senators and house members."
  • The Gazette reports on a weekend pro-Obama rally in Charleston.
  • AP sets the stage for a Monday rally in support of Capito at Madison Coal & Supply in Charleston.
  • GOP gubernatorial candidate Russ Weeks responds to The Register-Herald of Beckley after polling shows him well behind incumbent Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin.
  • The Gazette reports on negative ad salvos between Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, and the Democrat seeking a rematch after his 2004 defeat, Mike Ross.