When West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin announced that he would run in the state’s open-seat, special Senate election, most commentators thought the outcome was a foregone conclusion. Manchin is very popular in the state, and the Republican bench is thin. Once Representative Shelly Moore Capito announced that she would not run, it was widely thought that Manchin would cruise to a win. And while polls have been closer than expected, Manchin has led consistently.
PPP’s first look at the West Virginia Senate contest finds a very tight race with John Raese up 46-43 on Joe Manchin, a result within the poll’s margin of error.
The contest provides a fascinating choice for voters in the state who love their Democratic Governor but hate the party’s ranks in Washington DC that he would be joining.
Manchin is the second most popular Governor PPP has polled on all year, behind only Bobby Jindal, with a 59/32 approval spread. He breaks almost even with Republicans as 42% of them approve of the job he’s doing with just 44% disapproving. In a highly polarized political climate the list of politicians with that kind of crossover popularity is very short.
At the same time West Virginians couldn’t be much more down on national Democrats. Barack Obama’s approval rating in the state is just 30% with 64% of voters disapproving of him. Even within his own party barely half of voters, at 51%, like the job he’s doing. Support from Republicans (91% disapproval) and independents (73% disapproval) is pretty much nonexistent.
If there’s a clearer example this year of a race where President Obama is dragging down Democratic hopes, it will be hard to find. Fifty-nine percent of likely voters approve of the job Manchin is doing, but just forty-three percent plan to vote for him.
Manchin’s popularity notwithstanding, there are multiple cross-currents at work in the state that might suggest why he is dropping in the polls. One is a widening federal investigation into his administration’s handling of a major road project. Another might be this video that recently surfaced, reminding West Virginia voters that Manchin was one of President Obama’s first cheerleaders:
via Jim Geraghty