First West Virginia Poll Shows Morrisey Leading Manchin

Joe Manchin looks to be facing a strong challenge from Patrick Morrisey.

The first poll out of West Virginia since Tuesday’s Republican primary on the matchup between incumbent Senator Joe Manchin and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey gives Morrisey a slight lead, and Republicans hoping to hold on to the Senate this year some slight hope:

After Tuesday’s West Virginia primary, red-state Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin is now trailing Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey by two points in his re-election race, according to a new poll conducted by WPA intelligence.

Why it matters: That’s within the margin of error, but the poll is a sign that the GOP has improved its chances of defeating Manchin since Don Blankenship lost the primary this week. Manchin is in an especially vulnerable position given that President Trump won West Virginia by 42 points 2016.

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Meanwhile, several Republican leaders and outside groups are looking to West Virginia as a sign of what to expect in places where red-state Democrats face similar struggles.

By the numbers:

  • 46% of West Virginia voters surveyed said they would vote for Morrisey in the November general election, while 44% said they would vote for Manchin. 11% were undecided.
  • 51% said it was “time for a new person to be in the U.S. Senate,” 37% said Manchin “deserves reelection,” and 13% refused to answer.
  • Among undecided voters, 59% have an unfavorable view of Manchin, while 30% have a favorable view.

These numbers come as somewhat of a surprise for several reasons, and they should set off some alarm bells for Manchin as the campaign gets underway. First of all, previous polling of a head-to-head match, all of which was conducted nearly a year ago, showed Manchin with a lead over his potential rival, albeit one that had him below the 50% threshold and with a rather high level of undecided voters. Second, previously Manchin has previously been fairly popular in West Virginia even as his position in the Democratic Party began to buck the political trends that have been sweeping across the state. In his first run for Governor in 2004, for example, Manchin beat his Republican rival by more than 200,000 votes in the same year that George W. Bush beat John Kerry at the top of the ticket by nearly 100,000 votes. In 2008, he won re-election by more than 300,000 votes even as John McCain beat Barack Obama by roughly 97,000 votes. When he ran in a Special Election to fill the remainder of the term of the late Robert Byrd, Manchin won by ten percentage points and roughly 50,000 votes, and he was elected to a full term in his own rate in 2012 by a margin of 160,000 votes even as Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama by nearly 200,000 votes.

Over this same time period, the Mountain State has slowly but surely drifted more and more into the Republican camp. Democrats have not won the state in a Presidential race since President Clinton did it in 1996, for example, and Republicans control both chambers of the State Legislature as well as holding both the Lt. Governor’s office, the Governor’s office (thanks to a party shift last summer), the entire state Congressional delegation, and one of the state’s two Senate seats. Morrisey himself was narrowly elected Attorney General in 2012 in a race that saw him defeat a six-term Democratic incumbent and was re-elected in 2016 in a race where he defeated his Democratic opponent by ten percentage points. Finally, and most significantly,  President Trump won the state by more than 300,000 votes in 2016. Through all of this, though, Manchin remained relatively popular inside West Virginia notwithstanding the political forces that turned it into a solidly red state over the past decade or so. This poll suggests that this period may be coming to an end and that Manchin may be more vulnerable than previously believed.

This is, of course, just a single poll and there are nearly six months to go before Election Day. Additionally, it’s worth noting that Morrisey’s lead is well within the margin of error for the poll. Therefore, we should wait for at least some more polling in this race, and the passage of more time, before jumping to any conclusions. Nonetheless, if accurate this poll should set off alarm bells for Manchin and for national Democrats. Outside of the topline numbers, the fact that a majority of voters think that there needs to be someone new in the Senate, and the fact that Manchin is viewed so disfavorably by those people saying they are undecided are particularly concerning.

All of this goes back to the fact that, notwithstanding the indications that Democrats stand to do well nationally based on current polling, the picture in the Senate is far different than the picture in the House. The main reason for this, of course, is the simple fact that Democrats have far more seats to defend in this election cycle than Republicans do and that many of these seats are in states that have voted solidly Republican in other races for some time now. This includes not just West Virginia, but also Montana, North Dakota, Indiana, and Missouri. Additionally, there are signs that other races could be problems for Democrats this year. A recent poll out of Florida, for example, shows Governor Rick Scott leading three-term incumbent Bill Nelson by four percentage points. On the other side of the ledger, Democrats have hopes of winning in states such as Nevada, Arizona, and Tennessee. Given the small GOP majority in the upper chamber, the outcome of each of these races will go a long way toward determining who controls the Senate in January. For that reason alone, the fact that Senator Manchin appears to be vulnerable is a worrisome sign for Democrats.


FILED UNDER: 2018 Election, Congress, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. de stijl says:

    I have nothing to say except Morrissey.

    Moz. The Smiths. Meat Is Murder, Viva Hate, Your Arsenal.

    He turned into quite the wanker in his later years but you still can’t let that dissuade from his early genius. Great lyricist. Like Bob Dylan or Elvis Costello or Roddy Frame great. And such a unique take voice.

    Gotta go with Suedehead. I know – obvious choice. How so, so cliche! But it is his best song, and the best video.

    Unless you can prove me wrong, I will fight you!

  2. de stijl says:

    I’m a really bad negotiator (I just paid too much for a house today) – I would have gladly taken Interesting Drugas a song or Hairdresser On Fire for great bonkers lyrics as equals to, but not superior to Suedehead.

    Three, four, five years ago the NFL tried to use the chorus Everyday Is Like Sunday as a promo song layered over slo-mo violence and athletic valor. I plotzed.

    Here is the audio / video:

    Why would the NFL want this song? Basically, because it said the word “Sunday.” There is no other discernible reason.

  3. wr says:

    On the other hand, murderer and criminal Don Blankenship has vowed to fight to keep Morrissey from the Senate. (Which might explain why Manchin was being so polite to him the other day). How many of his followers will listen to him and either stay home or vote for someone else?

  4. James Pearce says:

    For that reason alone, the fact that Senator Manchin appears to be vulnerable is a worrisome sign for Democrats.

    If the Dems lose any seats, they’re not taking the Senate.

  5. Todd says:

    As much as I’d like to see Democrats retake the Senate, I think only Tester in Montana and Heidcamp in North Dakota are likely to win. Manchin will have a hard time overcoming the (D) after his name on the ballot in West Virgina. Same thing for Donnelly in Indiana … and he’s making things even worse by doing that ridiculous moderate Democrat thing where he thinks supporting Trump on some things such as nominations is going to make a difference. Republicans are not going to vote for him anyway, and by supporting Trump policies he’ll just decrease the chances of a strong turnout that he would need in the cities. Claire McCaskill is the same type of Democrat, but she also appears to be the luckiest politician in America when it comes to the opponents she runs against. None-the-less, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see her go down too.

    Obviously, I hope all of these predictions turn out to be wrong.

    However, if the Democrats don’t take back the Senate, we are going continue to see the evidence of just how truly consequential the 2016 election really was … in the form of a much more conservative judiciary long after Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell have left their respective offices.

  6. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Speaking honestly, I’m not sure that Manchin losing makes much of a difference. He’s a Republican in everything but name anyway.

  7. Todd says:

    @HarvardLaw92: On individual votes, perhaps. But unless he was going to refuse to support Chuck Schumer as majority leader, then his (and the other red state) seat(s) staying in Democratic hands is still very important … especially if say Democrats are able to flip NV and/or AZ.

    The reality is, I expect to wake up the day after the election in November to find out that the Republicans actually gained seats in the Senate, and even barely held on to the House. The environment is clearly very good for Democrats, but I won’t believe that “our side” is capable of capitalizing on it unless and until they actually do it.

  8. Kylopod says:


    Speaking honestly, I’m not sure that Manchin losing makes much of a difference. He’s a Republican in everything but name anyway.

    According to 538’s calculations, Manchin has a “Trump score” of 61%–meaning that while he votes with Trump more often than any other Democrat in the Senate except Doug Jones, he votes with Trump less often than a single Senate Republican. Furthermore, he’s got one of the lowest relative Trump scores in the Senate (calculated by comparing how often he votes with Trump with how well Trump performed in the state in 2016)–a category occupied only by Democrats.

    In a broad sense Manchin may be a “Republican-lite.” But he is unquestionably less Republican than any actual Republican currently in the Senate, and it’s a virtual certainty that any Republican who replaces him will be substantially to Manchin’s right. The notion that it “makes no difference” is not only false, it’s rooted in the exact kind of purity-trolling that is guaranteed to keep Dems out of power for the foreseeable future.

  9. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    Manchin has a pretty liberal voting record for a Red State Democrat. Far more liberal than Ben Nelson or most Red State Democrats of the past.