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In West Virginia, Senate Is Yet Another Seat to Sweat

“I’ve been running a campaign on capitalism and free enterprise, and it’s resonating,” he said. “It isn’t any different at all. It’s the same message. I think it resonates today more than ever because when you look at the last two years in Washington, we have had a huge shift to the left and ... a lot of our politicians aren’t giving the electorate the chance to say, ‘Maybe we’re not for a lot of this socialism that we see coming down the road.’”

Democratic operatives acknowledged Wednesday that no one expected Raese to gain momentum so quickly after securing the GOP nomination last month.

“It seems the governor was just like the rest of us in accepting the conventional wisdom” that Manchin was the prohibitive favorite in the special election, said George Carenbauer, a former chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party. “I think Joe Manchin thought he had his own independent identity here.”

But Raese and his GOP allies have found success in making the contest about two different Joe Manchins. They’ve worked to separate “West Virginia Joe,” who is well-liked in the state, from “Washington Joe,” whom they have called a rubber stamp for national Democratic policies and, more specifically, President Barack Obama. Obama was never a popular figure in West Virginia and became even less liked after he pushed an energy policy that many view as a direct attack on the state’s large coal industry.

Along with the NRSC money that has flowed into the contest, Raese has now raised about $250,000 in the month since he won the primary and put about $1.3 million of his own money into the race.

“Raese is successfully linking Manchin to Barack Obama, and Manchin has got to de-link that in a way that allows Democrats to be comfortable with it,” Carenbauer said.

Democratic strategists will also spend the next five weeks trying to define Raese, an effort that the DSCC began this week with an ad that began running Tuesday.

Raese “wants to eliminate the minimum wage, privatize Social Security, and has a record of laying off workers and supporting tax breaks for businesses that ship jobs overseas. With that kind of baggage, the more West Virginia voters find out about John Raese, the more they will reject him,” DSCC spokeswoman Deirdre Murphy said.

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