With just over three months before the November General Election, here’s what the major rating agencies and polls are saying about the biggest political races in West Virginia.
West Virginia incumbent Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has so far held steady in his highly competitive race with Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Sabato’s Crystal Ball reports, “An average of Gravis Marketing, Monmouth University and SurveyMonkey since the primary have Manchin ahead on average 52-41.”
Sabato has also moved the race from “toss-up” to “leans Democrat.” According to Sabato, “Joe Manchin is once again a small favorite in our ratings. However, the Cook Political Report still has the contest as one of five Senate races in the “toss-up” category
The possible candidacy of Don Blankenship continues to be a wildcard in the Senate race. He switched from the Republican to the Constitution Party after finishing third in the primary and is trying to gain ballot access. The Secretary of State’s Office has rejected his application citing the state’s “sore loser” law, but Blankenship will challenge that in court.
The conventional wisdom says that Blankenship would take votes away from Morrisey, but it’s dangerous to trust old school thinking in today’s volatile political environment. If Blankenship is permitted to run and he turns his considerable resources against Manchin, it could make the race between Manchin and Morrisey even more competitive.
Or Blankenship, if he wins a court challenge, might not be a significant factor at all. Polls by Gravis and Monmouth after the primary that included Blankenship showed little change in the Manchin-Morrisey numbers. Perhaps West Virginians, even those who voted for Blankenship in the primary, would view him as having already had his chance.
The race for West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District seat is getting attention from the rating agencies because they view it as the most competitive of the three in the state. The open seat race features Republican House of Delegates member Carol Miller and Democratic state Senator Richard Ojeda.
Sabato’s Crystal Ball recently moved the race from “leans Republican” to “toss-up,” calling Ojeda “something of a folk hero in Coal Country.” Ojeda is running more as a populist than a Democrat. He gained a significant political boost when he sided with the school teachers during their strike earlier this year.
However, The Cook Political Report still has the race as even, citing the recent history of the southern West Virginia district. Republican Evan Jenkins—who passed on re-election to run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate nomination—knocked off long-time Democratic incumbent Nick Rahall in 2014 and the district went heavily for Donald Trump last year.
Meanwhile, both Cook and Sabato view West Virginia’s 2nd District Congressman Alex Mooney and 1st District Congressman David McKinley as “safe” Republican seats.