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Manchin Does Delicate Dance to Distance Party

Raese, 60, is a native West Virginian with deep roots in the state. He owns a number of businesses here that are the source of his wealth. But his wife Liz and two young daughters are legal residents of Florida, which has become fodder for Democrats. The latest ad sponsored by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee even notes that Raese’s wife can’t vote for him.

Can Manchin Unlock Conservative Support?

Byrd was the longest serving Senator in history until his death in June, and the battle for his old seat has turned into among the most competitive in the country. Both Manchin and Raese are furiously running television and radio ads, and seeking help from national surrogates. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed Raese on Monday, the same day that former President Bill Clinton was in Morgantown stumping for the governor. Clinton won West Virginia’s electoral votes in 1992 and 1996, but no Democrat has done so since.

Republican operatives suggest the race will boil down to how well Manchin performs with Republicans and independent conservatives. Raese is expected to continue with his message that Manchin has flip-flopped on his support for the president and would “rubberstamp” Obama’s policies. In a state that still loves its governor, this is one of the only viable campaign themes available to carry Raese to victory.

“The federal government has choked us to death, and with our backs against the wall, we can’t afford to have a rubberstamp,” said Chandler, who runs a trailer rental business that he launched a dozen years ago. “This new administration, which is President Obama, [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.] and [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid [D-Nev.], they are nowhere near Main Street, they are nowhere near the heartland of our country and we cannot have someone just going along with the flow.”

Manchin’s new ads reveal that the governor is aware that he has been hemorrhaging conservative support. His spots take direct aim at conservative Democrats and Republicans like Chandler, who have supported him in the past. The ads tout his National Rifle Association endorsement and show him firing a gun directly opposite an image of Obama and texts of his signature legislative policies — “Obamacare” and “cap-and-trade.”

“That is where Manchin’s message should have been weeks ago. How Raese responds will be critical,” said one GOP operative based in West Virginia. “Raese has to shore up conservatives and make sure they vote in droves.”

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