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.
We cautioned against getting too worked up over PPP's California Senate poll, and a similar grain-of-salt warning applies here--but this result is a bombshell. It's the first major poll showing the Republican candidate even tied, let alone ahead, in West Virginia's Senate battle. PPP's numbers reflect an electorate that harbors competing preferences. On one hand, they adore Governor Joe Manchin (D); on the other, they detest national Democrats and would loathe to send President Obama another political ally in Washington:
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.
To these conflicted West Virginian Democrats and Independents, I'd offer this friendly advice: Have your cake and eat it, too. Elect John Raese to the US Senate as a reliable check against the Obama/Pelosi/Reid agenda you deplore, and in doing so, keep your beloved Democratic right where he is. If Joe Manchin loses this Senate race, he remains governor.
I'm feeling appreciative of the apparent good sense of the people of West Virginia...take it away, John Denver:
UPDATE: Unlike PPP's CA-SEN poll, which oversampled Democrats by at least seven points, this survey looks more reasonable. The party ID breakdown is 51 D / 37 R /12 I in today's poll. In 2008, the WV electorate split 48 D / 34 R / 19 (and voted for John McCain).