[Photo: studio08denver via Flickr]

Taking a look at the polls for the West Virginia Senate Special election a few months ago, Democrat and current WV Governor Joe Manchin was on top of GOP Candidate John Raese by double-digits. Today, however, this has all changed. Raese has bolstered his name recognition by running ads stating that he won’t be a "rubber-stamp for Barack Obama" while claiming that Joe Manchin ultimately will be. In a state where the 2008 election went overwhelmingly to John McCain, this tactic has proven effective.

Manchin has enjoyed across the board favorable ratings as Governor in the Mountain State for most of his tenure as governor, but is currently behind Raese by roughly 4.5 pts (according to a recent RealClearPolitics). Manchin had once held double-digit leads on Raese, but recently the tables have turned in favor of the Republican Party’s candidate

Public Policy Polling has released a new poll putting Joe Manchin Ahead of Raese.  . . .

This recent surge for the GOP has boosted this election to the national spotlight, and with good reason. Although the election is only to fill the remaining two years in Senator Byrd’s term, it has big implications for the make-up of the Senate. If Raese wins, that will give the Senate Republicans a seat that they once anticipated not even having a chance at getting.

Manchin is trying to appeal to a very hard-to-please voter base this time around and its proving a bit difficult. In a state where Democrats have reigned supreme for so long, it looks as though Raese could potentially pull out a victory, which should scare the living hell out of anyone with any sense. Manchin has put out a new ad detailing his endorsement from the NRA and literally shooting cap-and-trade with a rifle, two things that “should” be appealing to an interesting West Virginia voter-base.

Do I like Joe Manchin? Not particularly. He wants to extend the Bush tax cuts, and has yet to come out against Mountaintop Removal (probably due to the support and backing he receives from coal companies). However, Manchin is a much better person to have in the U.S. Senate as opposed to John Raese.

Raese, who may or may not even be a West Virginia resident, holds radically conservative views that would, in no way, benefit the state of West Virginia as a whole. Raese is a token “de-regulate, abolish this abolish that, less spending” conservative (who by the way wants to extend the bush tax cuts while scolding the current administration for outrageous spending). Raese’s “About Me” section focuses more on his NRA liftetime membership than anything else really, which may appeal to some West Virginia voter’s, but doesn’t highlight any real issues other than the fact that he likes guns.

Raese has shown no respect for the state he supposedly wants to represent. In a recent add put out on for Raese by the GOP, the actors were asked to dress as “hicky blue collar men.” Raese is quite wealthy, receiving large sums of money from inheritance. A millionaire who has had no problem spending vast amounts of money on his senate campaign, Raese is hellbent on being the first GOP to take a West Virginia Senate seat in roughly 51 years (the last one I believe being Chapman Revercomb who last served in 1959).

The thing that is the most unsettling about John Raese is his views on coal companies. He wishes to “unshackle” big coal companies like Massey Energy from certain safety regulations. To anyone who has held an open ear to the news in the past six months, this should be viewed as dangerous. The Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in Raleigh County, WV earlier this year highlighted the need for increased oversight into coal mine operations (especially Massey Energy), not a safety deregulation. Companies like Massey are solely based on the profit motive, and John Raese appears to be the same way.

West Virginia Democratic Senate candidate Gov. Joe Manchin is quickly trying to capitalize on the news that a casting call for an ad against him sought “hickey” actors. A new ad by Manchin’s campaign hammers his Republican opponent John Raese, and puts the blame for the incident on Raese’s shoulders.

Earlier this week, Politico reported that the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s advertising people had called for actors with a “‘Hicky’ Blue Collar look” for an anti-Manchin ad. (See the ad here.) Manchin’s ad in response to the news doesn’t hold back.

“John Raese thinks we’re hicks,” the ad says. “His people hired actors from Philadelphia to attack Joe Manchin, and told them to dress ‘hickey.’”

(Source: Talking Points Memo)

Though on the surface it seems more logical for me to vote for Mountain Party candidate Jesse Johnson. Johnson is a third party candidate, who has campaigned vigorously for abolishing Mountaintop Removal entirely. However, his means for doing this are foggy and his plan to start a film industry would clearly not be enough to make up for the economic losses of abolishing MTR. I feel it more beneficial to cast the vote for Manchin (upon revelation due to a recent debate with my good friend Nathan Empsall). Supporting the Democratic Party as opposed to the GOP will not only benefit the country, but give a better chance towards effective environmental policy. Joe Manchin, I’m counting on you to do what is best for the state if you get elected.

(cross-posted from the Appalachian Agenda)