CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and state Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, lead in their respective races in this year’s election according to a Monmouth University poll released Wednesday.
Manchin leads Republican candidate and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey 48 percent to 39 percent. Former coal executive Don Blankenship, who announced last month he would run as the Constitution Party’s candidate, has 4 percent.
Blankenship’s run for Senate is in question because of the state’s “sour grapes” rule; the former Massey Energy CEO finished third in the Republican Senate primary in May.
When Blankenship was not provided as an option, 49 percent of respondents favored Manchin compared to 42 percent for Morrisey. The statewide poll has a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.
In the 3rd Congressional District, Ojeda leads Delegate Carol Miller, R-Cabell, 43-41, within the poll’s margin of error of 4.7 percentage points. The seat is currently held by U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., who defeated Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall in 2014 to flip the district. Jenkins finished second in last month’s Senate primary.
The poll was conducted between June 14 and June 19 with 653 registered voters, including a sample of 428 voters living in the 3rd Congressional District.
Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray said, although Election Day is more than four months away, the findings indicate voters are willing to look past party labels.
“I think that’s why Donald Trump also continues to be very popular because there’s a sense that, unlike the traditional establishment politician, Donald Trump has their back,” he said. “I think Ojeda has that kind of persona. And while Manchin may be a little bit more in the establishment than certainly others, he’s actually proven himself over the years.”
Trump has a 66 percent approval rating statewide, in which 49 percent of respondents strongly approve of his job performance. For comparison, Morning Consult has Trump’s approval rating in West Virginia at 62 percent.
In the Monmouth University poll, 41 percent of respondents said Manchin has not been supportive enough of the president, compared to 32 percent who said Manchin has given Trump the right amount of support and 12 percent who said Manchin is too supportive of the president.
Murray said respondents favor Manchin and Ojeda because both appear to better understand the state’s needs than their opponents; 50 percent of respondents said Manchin recognizes the day-to-day issues facing West Virginians, compared to 31 percent who said such about Morrisey.
Forty percent of respondents living in the 3rd Congressional District said the same about Ojeda, while 33 percent said Miller understands the everyday concerns of the public.
According to Murray, another issue for Morrisey is his past residency in New Jersey; Morrisey grew up in New York and New Jersey, and unsuccessfully ran in New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District in 2000.
“The fact that he’s not a native Mountaineer and has moved there from New Jersey some time ago is one of the things that people look at him and say, ‘Is he really somebody who understands what we are going through?'” Murray said.
Manchin campaign spokesman Grant Herring said Wednesday’s poll marks the fourth poll in a row with the senator leading; Manchin has a 50-42 advantage over Morrisey in a campaign poll, a 52-40 lead in a poll paid by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and a 53-40 advantage in a Gravis Marketing poll.
“Senator Manchin is taking nothing for granted,” Herring added. “He will continue to listen to West Virginians and work with both parties to get things done for the state.”
Morrisey campaign communications director Nathan Brand brushed off Wednesday’s poll in a statement.
“Patrick Morrisey is in a terrific position to win in November because of his conservative record of protecting West Virginians, being an ally for President Trump, and fighting back against (former President Barack) Obama and Washington liberals,” he said. “Manchin should be worried because he will see support dwindle as voters learn about his record of supporting Hillary Clinton, amnesty for illegals, and massive gun control.”
Monmouth University also released polls results regarding the 1st and 2nd District races; Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., leads Democrat Kendra Fershee among potential voters by a margin of 68-22. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., has a 51-33 advantage over his challenger, Talley Sergent.
“They are small samples that we have because we focused on the 3rd District. This is really a case where they are falling in line with what we would normally expect to normally happen in West Virginia in recent elections,” he said. “Manchin and Ojeda seem to be able to buck the trend basically by the virtue of their personalities.”
Donald Trump Jr. attended a Morrisey fundraiser in Charleston earlier this month. Morrisey previously said the president plans to visit in the state before the election.