The Fox News Poll released this week gives us the best snapshot-in-time so far of the ultra-competitive race for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Joe Manchin. It is increasingly difficult to get accurate responses for polls, but Fox reached 985 likely Republican voters by telephone and the margin of error is only plus or minus three points.
The poll shows Evan Jenkins with the support of 25 percent, Patrick Morrisey at 21 percent and Don Blankenship at 16 percent. Tom Willis has the most support in the second tier, but only at four percent, while two percent back Bo Copley and Jack Newbrough has one percent. The top three candidates will participate in a nationally broadcast Fox News debate Tuesday night in Morgantown.
The race is still quite fluid. Twenty-four percent of those questioned say they don’t know who they are going to vote for yet, while seven percent say “none-of-the-above.” That raises the stakes even more for the debate since voters may watch to make their final decision.
Additionally, each of the leading candidates has a soft side to their support. Forty-four percent of the Blankenship voters say they may change their mind; that’s the highest of any of the three. Thirty-nine percent of Morrisey voters say they could switch, while 38 percent of Jenkins voters are uncertain if they will stay with him.
The poll also shows why all of the candidates often repeat that they support Donald Trump. The President has huge numbers in West Virginia among Republicans. Nearly nine out of ten (87 percent) Republicans approve of the job Trump is doing as President and 67 percent strongly approve.
The candidates frequently talk about who is the best person to unseat Joe Manchin, but this poll shows that the veteran Democratic Senator won’t be an easy out. According to the Fox Poll, 35 percent of likely Republican voters approve of the job he is doing. Eleven percent strongly approve of Manchin’s work in Washington.
Manchin’s disapproval numbers among Republicans are much higher—59 percent—but keep in mind that Democrats still hold a significant voter registration advantage over Republicans—525,000 to 393,000 with 310,000 Independent voters. Those approval numbers may not translate into Republican votes, especially after a long campaign, but they show that Manchin’s support extends beyond his party.
Historically, the economy has been far and away the number one issue for voters in West Virginia, but that is now eclipsed by the drug epidemic. One in five Republican voters say the most important issue facing the country today is the opioid crisis, followed by the economy at 19 percent. Sixteen percent say immigration, while 14 percent say it’s health care. Notably, gun policy, abortion, energy and the environment and taxes are all in the single digits.
Here’s a link to the entire poll.