Early Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., sent an appeal over the Internet urging people to contribute to the re-election campaign of Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.
In less than 24 hours, more than 15,000 contributors gave $634,000 to Byrd’s campaign, according to the National Journal’s daily Internet publication “Hotline.” The average donation was about $42.25.
In Obama’s appeal, sent out by the MoveOn Political Action Committee, he wrote, “In 2006, Senator Byrd will be the target of Republicans because he stands up for what he believes. Will you join me in supporting Senator Byrd’s campaign for re-election, before a critical deadline this Thursday?”
Obama told The Charleston Gazette on Wednesday, “Sen. Byrd has spent his career in the Senate standing up for the Constitution and putting principle over politics. The people of West Virginia are lucky to have such a distinguished and powerful advocate fighting for them who consistently delivers results.”
Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., said Wednesday, “I have no doubt that George Bush and Karl Rove will try to defeat him because they do not like Sen. Byrd. But I think they misjudge the character of West Virginians.
“They totally overlook the deep-seated respect West Virginians have for Sen. Byrd. I think West Virginia will embrace his re-election. It is to our benefit that his national reputation rallies supporters from around the country to contribute and to take notice of West Virginia,” Mollohan said.
Rove, a major political consultant to Bush, has run several political campaigns making harshly negative attacks on opposing candidates.
Steve White, a Charleston lawyer and former co-chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party, said, “Robert C. Byrd has grown in stature with each succeeding year. He is respected and trusted by millions of people throughout this nation.
“Senator Byrd is a national figure and a desperately needed voice of reason in Washington. People throughout this country appreciate our senator and will be willing to do whatever is necessary to keep him in the Senate.”
Byrd was one of the first senators Obama met after coming to the Senate three months ago.
In his MoveOn appeal, Obama also said, “Byrd has spoken out passionately against a Bush foreign policy that has alienated our allies throughout the world. Today, he is fighting an attempt by Republicans to ram federal judges through the Senate.”
Mollohan said he was delighted, but “not surprised,” by the response to the appeal for funds.
“Last summer, I was at the Democratic National Convention in Boston and went to a church in Cambridge where Byrd was announcing the release of his book, ‘Losing America.’
“The place was packed with young people, middle-aged people and older people, reflecting the respect he enjoys nationally.”
Mollohan believes the White House already has Byrd “in their sights. Their approach is to use ad hominem attacks.”
“The thing the senator really has going for him is that West Virginians have known him for a long time. He has never let them down and his job is not yet done. Sen. Byrd wants to finish the Appalachian Corridor system and insure that West Virginia gets its fair share of government spending.
“We also need him to keep standing up for the constitutional rights of all Americans,” Mollohan said.
Wes Boyd and Joan Blades, husband-and-wife software entrepreneurs from the Silicon Valley — most famous for their “Flying Toasters” screensaver — founded MoveOn in 1998.
Originally, the group urged the nation to “censure Clinton” for his affair with Monica Lewinsky, then “move on” to more important business. Recently, MoveOn has become one of the nation’s leading fund-raisers that bought numerous political ads on television and in newspapers.
Obama closed his Tuesday letter by stating, “A Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate would mean a real change in the priorities of Washington, but more importantly, it would provide significant change for everyday people across America.
“Remember, in order to win back the Senate majority, we need Robert Byrd.”
Copyright © 2005 Charleston Newspapers Interactive