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Republicans Spending Big to Turn West Virginia Red

Sensing vulnerability in Gov. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) latest poll numbers, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is launching over a million dollars worth of ads in the West Virginia Senate race today. ”Big spending, more government and less freedom…we don’t want a rubber stamp for Obama,” the ad’s narrator intones. “We can’t afford Joe Manchin in Washington.”

It’s a clever tack, and one that gets to the heart of Manchin’s current difficulties in his race against relatively unknown Republican businessman John Raese for the Senate seat previously held by the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.). The problem for Manchin is that even though he enjoys quite high favorability ratings as governor, West Virginians have been slowly but steadily undergoing a seismic shift in their opinions towards the Democratic Party over the last couple decades — a shift that culminated with the once reliably blue state voting for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) over Barack Obama by a solid 13 percentage points in 2008.

So while West Virginians seem plenty happy with Manchin as their governor, they’re a lot less pleased with Democrats in Washington and not immediately eager to ensure that the party has another vote at their disposal. Manchin is still the favorite in the race, but the NRSC’s play makes it clear the group thinks the state is very much in contention.

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