We’ve been told for months by the national pundits that the U.S. Senate race in West Virginia this year for the seat currently held by Democrat Joe Manchin would be one of the most watched in the country and tonight’s event is an example of the enormity of the contest.

Fox News Channel is launching its America’s Election Headquarters 2018 midterm election series tonight with a debate among the top three Republican candidates in the race.   Their coverage begins at 6:30. Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum will moderate the debate.

Fox News Radio is also providing live coverage of the debate, which will be carried on some MetroNews radio stations as well as on the MetroNews website.  Fox News Capitol Hill reporter Jared Halpern will anchor the coverage, which begins at 6 p.m.

I’ve talked with Fox and seen the setup at the Metropolitan Theater. The network is putting a lot of resources into this event and their people seem genuinely excited about the debate.  Fox News Political Editor Chris Stirewalt, who grew up in West Virginia and worked in West Virginia media before going to Washington, was instrumental in convincing his network to come here.

Monday on Fox News Channel’s The Daily Briefing, FNC’s digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt unveiled Fox News Power Rankings which identified the seven toss up states in the midterms. One of the states identified as a toss up state is West Virginia

Here is a video link: http://video.foxnews.com/v/5778560894001/

Don Blankenship, Evan Jenkins and Patrick Morrisey all must know how much is riding on this debate. They’ve had opportunities to try to perfect their messages and hone their debating at previous events, but this one is different. The stakes are dramatically higher tonight.

The Fox News Poll showed a tight race with Jenkins at 25 percent, Morrisey at 21 percent and Blankenship at 16 percent. (Tom Willis, Bo Copley and Jack Newbrough all polled under ten percent and are not included in the debate.)

The poll also showed that large chunks of the support for each of the top three are soft, 24 percent are undecided and seven percent say “none of the above,” meaning there could be a lot of movement in the final days of the campaign.

The conventional wisdom is that a politician cannot win a race in a debate, but they can lose with a bad performance, but I think the stakes are even higher than that tonight.  The closeness of the race and the large percent of undecided voters suggest that many people are still waiting for one of the candidates to strike a chord with them.

It will be fascinating to see how the candidates respond under the bright lights of network television and tough questioning from anchors that are used to going toe-to-toe with politicians. I suspect Baier and McCallum will have less patience than I have had when trying to force the candidates off their talking points.

This should be enlightening and entertaining tonight.





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