Is the so-called “Byrd seat” in WV really a “safe” Democrat seat?

Fox News reports that the seat once held by the late Senator Robert Byrd, generally considered a “safe seat” for Democrats in the fall, may not be so safe after all:

It’s a race that was not supposed to raise the concerns of any Democrat in 2010, after all, the party has enough to worry about this election cycle as it seeks to defend a disproportionate number of at-risk seats against a GOP onslaught. But there it is, more and more attention turning to the West Virginia special Senate election in which a vastly popular Democratic governor is seeking the seat long held by the late Sen. Robert Byrd, a Democratic legend, during a campaign year in which most political experts now agree that a GOP wave could even overtake the Mountain State.

Gov. Joe Manchin, whose sky high approval ratings would give any politician a warm, fuzzy feeling, was once thought to be a shoo-in against independently wealthy Republican businessman John Raese, who lost by double digits to Byrd in 2006, but the sour national mood against all-things-Washington and a deeply unpopular president (Rasmussen had Obama at 29% in late August) have pushed this race into unexpected territory, with Manchin enjoying only a single-digit lead.

Respected political analyst Charlie Cook in early September said, “This race has a very long way to go, and it might never make it to the Toss Up column, but it is certainly worth watching. As such, it moves to the Lean Democratic column.”

The president’s abysmal support, among the lowest in the nation, has Raese lashing the governor to Obama and trying to steer the race to national issues, like taxes, spending, and a too-big federal government. Raese, who has not yet drawn the attention of the Tea Party movement, mentions the president at every turn, painting the governor as a “rubber stamp for the Obama agenda.”

And that is why, just steps from the Capitol last week participating in a coal rally, Manchin told several reporters, “They’re just plain wrong,” as he jabbed a finger toward the white-domed building behind him. “I think they are wrong in their position. They are trying to over regulate what they can’t legislate,” Manchin said of the “cap and trade” energy bill passed in the House but stuck in the Senate.

In fact, at times, Manchin sounded like he was reading from GOP talking points against the bill, “If they continue what they’re doing, it’s going to raise the price of every product used in the nation. It’ll change the industrial might and the jobs for manufacturing. It’s just ridiculous.”

It would certainly be considered an upset for Raese to defeat Manchin considering not only Manchin’s popularity as Governor of West Virginia but also considering West Virginia’s Democrats pretty much have a lock on the Congressional delegation. Rep. Shelly Moore Capito (running for reelection in WV-2) – who was once considered a possible opponent for Manchin – is the only Republican in the WV Congressional delegation. The WV state legislature is also dominated by Democrats. That said, Obama’s poor ratings in WV could make the difference at the ballot box.

To keep up with polling numbers for the Manchin/Raese Senate race, click here and here. Looks like Rasmussen is doing all of the polling out of WV right now, but expect that to change as we get closer to the November elections.

As they say, stay tuned …

Comments are closed.