Oct. 16, 2010
Rupp, Marshall University Embroiled in Partisan Poll Escapade
Campaign 2010 Analysis: The Raese/Manchin U.S. Senate race
By Huntingtonnews.net Staff
Dr. Robert Rupp, Associate Professor of History at West Virginia Wesleyan, also does some work as a consultant. Lately, his consulting work led him to advise a controversial new poll out on the U.S. Senate race in West Virginia, commissioned by Marshall University's School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
That poll, released on Friday, depicted Democratic candidate Joe Manchin leading Republican John Raese by 10 points. The poll has been met with skepticism throughout West Virginia, since all other polls done by nationally-recognized pollsters show a much tighter race, either showing a tie or either Raese or Manchin leading by 3 points.
The poll was conducted for Marshall's journalism school by Orion Strategies, which is owned by Curt Wilkerson, whose latest work has been for First Congressional District candidate Mike Oliverio. As Oliverio's campaign manager, Wilkerson has engaged in a highly partisan attack campaign against Oliverio's Republican opponent, David McKinley.
Curt Wilkerson
"To suggest that Curt Wilkerson doesn't have a huge vested interest in the outcome of the Raese/Manchin match-up is totally naive," said Jack Ellis, HNN's Senior Political analyst. "Clearly, as Oliverio's campaign manager, Wilkerson wants Raese to lose because David McKinley benefits from all the voters who come out to vote for Raese in the First Congressional District."
"You see, Raese's lead against Manchin was beginning to create a coattail effect for candidates like McKinley," said Ellis. "So Wilkerson puts out this poll, with its rather high margin of error. But he enlists Dr. Rupp and Marshall to give it a good looking shine. And the state media don't know better because they haven't studied the players, and they, too, get co-opted by Wilkerson."
"What people want to know in the Marshall community is how in the world Marshall got dragged into partisan politics like this," said Ellis. "Marshall has no business getting into this race. They have to deal with whomever is the next U.S. Senator from West Virginia, and yet somebody got the school involved with Curt Wilkerson's attempt to run this one out the door? That's incredible, and someone's head should roll over that. I hear many Marshall alumni already are gearing up for that."
Robert Rupp
"Finally, we have the issue of Dr. Robert Rupp," said Ellis. "As the current Chairman of the State Elections Commission, what is Rupp doing as a consultant involved in this mess? That seems like a real conflict of interest to me. He's supposed to be totally neutral as State Elections Commission Chairman, yet he's involved with the highly partisan Curt Wilkerson in a poll that doesn't even show its methodology like all other polls do on Real Clear Politics? That's pretty sad."
"There's no question that Rupp will have to resign from that position immediately, as he's consulted, during a heated political election season, with Curt Wilkerson who has a vested interest in the result of the Raese/Manchin race," said Ellis. "Nobody who is voting for Raese this election season can possibly have faith in Rupp as State Elections Commission Chairman after this."
"Just when you think West Virginia's backwater politics is a thing of the past, here comes Curt Wilkerson and Robert Rupp to reinforce that stereotype. You expect that from a political operative like Wilkerson," said Ellis. "But Rupp has disappointed a lot of people here, and so has Marshall."

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