MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- For months, Democrat Sue Thorn has knocked on doors and walked parade routes across the 1st Congressional District, often handing out snack bags as she asks people to choose her over Republican Rep. David McKinley.
"I'm tired of the rich getting richer," she tells them, "and the rest of us get peanuts."
It's designed to draw a chuckle, but Thorn says it's also opened the door to countless conversations. Though she's raised only a fraction of her opponent's financial support and lacks his name recognition, Thorn is confident she's what voters want.
"This is a classic fight of whether or not organized people can beat money," said the 58-year-old former community organizer. "People really want to take Congress back," she says, "and put it back in the hands of people who really understand what's going on in their lives."
McKinley, a 65-year-old engineer and former state GOP chairman, says that's him.
As one of 48 small business owners in Congress, he said he's not there to build a second career. He's there to fix things by applying "a business perspective."
"I'm trying to get something changed that reduces our unemployment and enhances our manufacturing bases," he said, "and gets people back to work."
Both candidates are from Wheeling, but that's virtually the only thing they have in common.
Thorn, daughter of a union electrician, lives in a cabin built by the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal program born of the Great Depression. Her family survived that era because government created jobs.
"And they weren't handouts. They built bridges and roads and dams," she said. "And I think that's exactly what the government should be doing now."
McKinley, who swept into office on Tea Party support two years ago, said that's exactly the wrong approach.
"Government cannot create jobs," he said. Its job, he says, is to help businesses thrive by cutting taxes, removing burdensome regulations and shrinking its own role.
Thorn wants to raise taxes on the top 1 percent or 2 percent of wealthiest Americans. McKinley doesn't want to raise taxes for anyone. He also wants to slash corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 25 percent so American companies can compete better.
"Technically, we've been out of the recession for 24-30 months. But tell that to the individual on Maple Street in Follansbee. <t40>...<t$> People are still hurting," McKinley said. "Raising taxes on the wealthy -- on anyone right now -- is not timed very well."
McKinley also wants to make Medicare a block-grant program and give control to the states.