West Virginians had been led by Democrats for decades, but they overwhelmingly backed President Donald Trump in the 2016 election. It’s that political reality that democratic Senator Joe Manchin lives in as he faces a re-election fight against West Virginia State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
In most states, Trump’s overwhelming popularity would mean a democratic senator wouldn’t have a chance, but Manchin has more than a chance. According to one of the latest polls out of the state, which was conducted before Manchin voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the senator was beating his opponent by eight points.
So what is it about West Virginian voters that allows them to walk a line between support for Trump and support for Manchin and how did Manchin’s vote for Kavanaugh affect their view of the Senator?
Frank Luntz, a veteran Republican pollster, convened a group of 12 swing voters in West Virginia to try to answer that question. People who were chosen to participate either had to have voted for both republican and democratic presidential candidates in the last three elections or if they’ve only voted Republican in presidential elections, needed to have expressed support for Manchin himself. The focus group was conducted on the evening of October 5th, after Manchin had announced he would be supporting Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Some saw his vote for Kavanaugh as a nakedly political move, while others said it means he’s listening to his constituents. But no one seemed particularly happy about the state of politics right now or their choices for Senator.
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