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In West Virginia, Senate Is Yet Another Seat to Sweat

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has dropped half a million dollars into West Virginia’s Senate race in the past week while the National Republican Senatorial Committee has spent $1.2 million.

The ad buys came as GOP nominee John Raese dropped into Washington, D.C., for a sit-down with NRSC Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) and as Democratic operatives continue to scramble to play down a Democratic poll that showed Gov. Joe Manchin (D) trailing in the contest.

It’s official: West Virginia’s special election is part of Senate Democrats’ firewall against a GOP takeover of the Senate.

The fact that Republicans have even forced national Democrats to engage in the Mountain State is a victory for national Republicans. It puts Democrats further on the defensive and will drain away resources Democrats could use to go on offense elsewhere as they look to maintain control of the Senate.

A victory by Raese would likely be viewed alongside Christine O’Donnell’s GOP primary win in Delaware as the upset of the cycle in the Senate.

The latest survey from Rasmussen Reports on Monday showed Raese ahead 48 percent to 46 percent.

But with almost five weeks left before Election Day, Manchin still has plenty of time to shift the dynamics of the race, and it would be folly to count out the well-liked, well-funded governor who boasts some of the highest approval ratings of any chief executive in the country.

For now, political insiders attribute Raese’s unexpected momentum to his ability to catch Democrats by surprise, and to simple good timing.

“When Raese first got into this and he started putting his spots up, I thought he’s not doing anything different in this campaign than he’s done in his previous failed campaigns. It looked like the same old Raese,” one West Virginia GOP operative said Wednesday.

Raese has taken on, and been defeated by, two of West Virginia’s most powerful Democrats in the past quarter-century. Raese challenged then-Sen. Robert Byrd in the Senator’s last re-election bid in 2006 and secured just 34 percent of the vote against the political icon. Raese faced Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D) in a much closer contest in 1984, when he took 48 percent of the vote as Rockefeller won his first Senate term.

“What I think the difference is this year is he’s just really tapped into this passionate resentment of what’s going on in Washington, and voters are just desperately looking for somebody to just shake things up,” the operative said. “Be a bull in the china shop.”

And that description fits Raese perfectly.

Always self-assured, Raese is a man who obviously enjoys the spotlight and isn’t afraid to speak his mind.

“I’m a little bit to the right of the tea party,” Raese said when asked about his affiliation with that group on Wednesday. “I always kid them because they’re a little to the left of me.”

But Raese also agreed that his campaign message this cycle is not much different from the one he ran on when he challenged Byrd and Rockefeller.

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