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.
Given the President's high degree of unpopularity it's no surprise that 54% of voters in the state want Republicans to control the next Congress with just 37% wanting the Democrats to stay in charge. GOP voters (91-3) and independents (66-21) are pretty universal in their desire for a Republican majority and even 25% of Democrats say they'd like to see a change.
22% of voters in the state have the competing impulses of both liking Manchin and wanting Republicans to control the next Congress. With those folks Raese leads 57-29 and that's fueling his slight overall advantage.
Despite Manchin's 42% approval rating with Republicans he's getting only 14% of their votes. And in spite of a +8 approval spread with independents, he trails Raese 56-30 with them. Raese also leads 47-41 with another key group- the Democrats that disapprove of Obama.
These poll numbers show a much more favorable race for Raese than anything that's been released publicly to date so I'd suggest caution in declaring too much momentum for the Republicans in West Virginia before other data confirms it. But one thing is definitely clear: this race is not going to be a slam dunk for Democrats as might have been hoped at one time.
Full results here