The special election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) was supposed to be a cakewalk for Gov. Joe Manchin (D), but new numbers released Tuesday show the popular governor in a dead heat with Republican businessman John Raese.
The poll from Public Policy gives Raese a lead over Manchin 46 percent to 43 percent. A full 10 percent of likely voters remain undecided. While that lead is within the margin of error, the numbers do suggest some serious problems for Manchin.
Despite Manchin's personal popularity — pollster Tom Jensen notes that Manchin's approval is second only to Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) — the governor is being dragged down by low ratings for President Obama and national Democrats.
The president's approval rating stands at just 30 percent in West Virginia, and 57 percent of likely voters said they think the national Democratic Party is "too liberal."
"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," Jensen wrote. "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."
After Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) passed on a Senate run earlier this year, it was expected that Manchin would have an easy road to the Senate, but Raese has spent heavily on TV ads tying Manchin to the president and Democrats in Washington.