The Senate contest in West Virginia is between Joe Manchin's popularity and Barack Obama's unpopularity and in the end it looks as though Manchin's popularity will win out. Manchin leads John Raese 51-46 in PPP's final look at the race.
Manchin is the most popular politician we've polled on anywhere in the country this year and it's by a wide margin. On this final poll his approval rating hit the 70% mark with only 22% disapproving of him. Usually you would expect someone with those kinds of numbers to have an easy time of it but Manchin's been hampered by efforts to tie him to Barack Obama and national Democrats. Obama's approval rating in the state is only 31% with 61% of voters disapproving of him.
About a month ago it looked like there was a very real chance Manchin could lose. But three key things have put him in a position for victory:
-John Raese did not prove to be a particularly strong opponent. The first time PPP polled the race, his favorability was 41/35. On this final poll his favorability is 41/47. As voters have gotten to know Raese and make up their minds about him they've generally found him to be unappealing. It would take an extremely formidable candidate to beat someone like Manchin-Raese doesn't seem to be that guy.
-Democrats in West Virginia aren't having the same kind of enthusiasm issues that are plaguing their party throughout most of the country. John McCain won the state by 13 points in 2008 and those planning to vote this year supported McCain by a basically identical 12 points. Unfortunately the lesson for Dems here- nominate your most popular politician anywhere in the country- is not particularly transferable to other states.
-Manchin has made enough conservatives comfortable voting for him. He's winning 19% of the Republican vote, more than any other Democratic Senate nominee we've polled on except for Chris Coons in Delaware. Manchin will still lose the conservative vote overwhelmingly but it looks like he'll cut his losses enough on that front for his margins with moderates and liberals to put him over the top.
This race is still close enough that an upset Tuesday is not impossible- but it appears likely that Manchin will survive the tide.
Full results here