Rahall up 9 in new poll

Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) holds a 9-point lead over his Republican challenger, state Sen. Evan Jenkins, in a new survey of the race.

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The survey, conducted by DFM Research for SMART Transportation Division, gives Rahall 48 percent support to Jenkins’ 39 percent support among self-identified likely voters. SMART is a group comprised of two organizations that have contributed to Rahall's campaign, but the stated primary purpose of the group's poll was to gauge support for transportation methods in the district.

Voters are split on both candidates, but Jenkins has more room to grow. Forty-seven percent of respondents view Rahall favorably, while 43 percent view him unfavorably and 8 percent are neutral; 23 percent have a favorable opinion of Jenkins, while 21 percent view him unfavorably, a quarter are neutral and nearly a third more have never heard of him.

The survey's similar to one released mid-April by Democratic group House Majority PAC, which is backing Rahall. That poll gave him a 12-point lead.

The new survey indicates fewer than 1 in 4 likely voters in the district approve of President Obama.

Rahall is a top target for Republicans this election cycle, in part because of those dismal approval numbers for Obama. Outside groups on both sides have launched a barrage of attacks on both candidates, and the new poll indicates Republican attacks focused on Obama’s energy policies could ultimately take a toll on the Democrat.

Fifty-eight percent of respondents on the poll agree that new Environmental Protection Agency regulations will have a negative impact on West Virginia coal jobs, and 61 percent say a candidate’s position on coal is a “strong factor” in their decision at the ballot box.

In the race for the state’s open Senate seat, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) takes 46 percent support compared to 36 percent for Democrat Natalie Tennant, with 17 percent of respondents unsure whom they’ll back. Those numbers are only in the 3rd District, but it's not a good omen for Tennant statewide.

The survey was conducted among 352 self-identified likely voters via landline and cellphone April 22-27 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.2 percentage points.

—This poll was updated on Friday to reflect SMART Transportation's support for Rahall.