W.Va. Poll: Vote for Kavanaugh Boosts Manchin's Chances

W.Va. Poll: Vote for Kavanaugh Boosts Manchin's Chances
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
W.Va. Poll: Vote for Kavanaugh Boosts Manchin's Chances
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
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Sen. Joe Manchin has a potentially worrisome re-election race this fall, but a new West Virginia poll shows one surefire way to increase his favorable odds: a vote for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

A Trafalgar Group survey out Thursday puts Manchin at a whopping 29-point advantage over his Republican competitor, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey -- if he chooses to vote for Kavanaugh. Conversely, a vote against the nominee puts Manchin at a mere two-point lead — a statistical dead heat that falls within the poll’s margin of error.

In the RealClearPolitics polling average, Manchin holds a seven-point lead in a state currently rated “leans Democratic.” In the Trafalgar poll, Manchin holds a 10-point lead without adding the question about Kavanaugh.

“This survey demonstrates that support for the President and his agenda is by no means inextricably linked to support for the Republican party as a whole,” Robert Cahaly, senior pollster at Trafalgar Group, said in a statement. “Some have mistaken the 2016 Trump margin in WV as more of a rejection of the Democratic party and less of a rejection of a specific Democratic nominee (Hillary Clinton), who, more than coincidentally, declared war on coal.”

The poll did not include businessman Don Blankenship, who lost to Morrisey in the GOP primary earlier this year. Blankenship claims to have enough signatures to have his name added to the November ballot as a candidate for the Constitution Party. West Virginia’s secretary of state is looking into whether doing so would violate the state’s “sore loser” law; if allowed on the ballot, Blankenship’s presence would likely harm Morrisey’s chances.

Manchin said immediately after Kavanaugh’s nomination was announced last week that he would review his record and decide whether to confirm him with constituents in mind. When Politico asked Manchin about pressure from leaders in the Democratic Party to vote against Kavanaugh, he said, “I'll be 71 years old in August, you're going to whip me? Kiss my you know what.” 

The two-term senator plans on holding a roundtable discussion with voters in his state on Friday to hear their thoughts and concerns about the nominee. His office has also set up a website specifically for people to express their opinions on the potential Supreme Court justice.

Manchin is not the only red state Democrat facing political turbulence over the Kavanaugh vote. Fellow Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Claire McCaskill of Missouri also face a tough decision on whether to buck party leadership or risk an even more difficult road to re-election.

Both Donnelly and Heitkamp told Politico that they too will not be swayed by party leadership and will vote the way they think is best. Manchin, Donnelly, and Heitkamp all voted in favor of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch’s nomination last year. McCaskill did not.

“Manchin’s support for Gorsuch and more cordial relationship with President Trump than most Senate Democrats have served him well,” Cahaly said.

President Trump won all of these states in 2016 by wide margins, and remains popular today despite lackluster poll numbers nationally.  A Gallup poll in January showed Trump’s approval rating as 61 percent in West Virginia.

The Trafalgar Group poll of 1,158 likely general election voters, conducted July 13-16, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.88 percentage points.

Sally Persons is RealClearPolitics' White House correspondent.

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