GOP poll: Manchin-Morrisey race tight in final month of election

CHARLESTON — A Democratic poll released last week showed U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., leading his Republican opponent for Senate, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, by 12 points.

This week, a different poll from a different party shows different results.

The Public Opinion Strategies poll, released Wednesday, has Manchin leading Morrisey by one point, 41 percent to 40 percent. Libertarian candidate Rusty Hollen sits at 8 percent.

The pollsters surveyed 600 likely voters in West Virginia between Oct. 7 and 9 with 40 percent of responses made over cellphone.

The poll’s margin of error is 4 percentage points.

Pollsters conducted the survey after Manchin voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Manchin was the only Democrat to voted in favor of confirmation.

“These hearings were among some of the most watched in history. Where you usually were something where maybe C-SPAN geeks watched, America watched these hearings. This isn’t a West Virginia phenomenon; this is a West Virginia phenomenon,” said Gene Ulm, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies.

“When you have large chunks of rural voters, large chunks of ideologically conservative voters, this has polarized the electorate, and that means in our favor.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee and Morrisey for Senate sponsored the poll. Public Opinion Strategies notes Morrisey as one of its clients on the organization’s website. Other clients include Republican lawmakers such as West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. Alex Mooney.

According to political analysis organization FiveThirtyEight, Public Opinion Strategies has a grade of “B” with a mean-reverted bias of 1.5 percentage points toward Republicans.

Ulm said the key to winning in November will be netting undecided voters.

“Those undecided voters overwhelmingly approve of the president, overwhelmingly identify themselves as conservative, overwhelmingly support Second Amendment rights, overwhelmingly pro-life,” he said. “They might not be Republicans but every state’s different, and that’s West Virginia.”

According to Morning Consult, President Donald Trump has a 62 percent approval rating in West Virginia, a tie with Wyoming for the highest state approval rating in the country.

Manchin’s campaign released a poll last week from Global Strategy Group showing the incumbent leading Morrisey 48 percent to 36 percent. The poll was conducted between Sept. 19 and 23, before Kavanaugh testified about sexual assault allegations and Trump’s Sept. 29 rally in Wheeling.

Manchin has led most non-partisan polls since the May primary election, but Ulm said national polling organizations have poorly represented the state.

“A lot of the public polls are still reflecting the West Virginia from 2008 where Democrats had a 15-point advantage. That advantage doesn’t exist anymore,” he said.

The Manchin-Morrisey contest is one of the most-watched Senate races in the country; election groups have the matchup as leaning in Manchin’s favor.

By Alex Thomas

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