It’s still uncertain whether West Virginia will hold a special election to replace the deceased Sen. Robert Byrd this year or in 2012. Gov. Joe Manchin, who has interest in the seat, has supported holding a special election this November, but a bill clarifying the ambiguous state law and allowing that to happen has stalled in the state legislature. That’s left Manchin with the option of proclaiming an election himself, yet that could lead to legal challenges.
The Democrat Manchin has been touted as the likely frontrunner should their be a special election this year, but one important thing to keep in mind is that President Obama’s approval rating is in the sewer in West Virginia. According to a state-by-state breakdown released by Gallup, Obama’a approval rating is just 34 percent in West Virginia, with 58 percent disapproving. Utah and Wyoming are the only states where he’s less popular. Obama has had a rough time in West Virginia. Hillary Clinton, you may recall, trounced Obama in the Democratic primary there by a 41-point margin. John McCain went on to carry the state in the general election, 56 percent to 43 percent.
Even if Manchin is well liked among West Virginia voters, a credible Republican would have an opening to argue that Manchin would be a vote in support of the Obama agenda. This argument would be made stronger assuming that Carte Goodwin, Manchin’s temporary appointment to fill out Byrd’s term, votes with the Democratic leadership in the coming months.