Wednesday, September 22, 2010

WVSen: Report from the bloggers' conference call with John Raese

With the death of Senator Robert Byrd in June, the Democrats had another seat to defend this fall. But the pieces seemed to be in place smooth transition from Dem to Dem to Dem. Popular Governor Joe Manchin appointed a member of his staff, Carte Goodwin, as a placeholder so he could run for the remainder of Byrd's term.

The early polls gave Manchin a big lead over Republican nominee John Raese (pronounced Race-ee), but a Public Policy Polling survey released yesterday showed a 46 to 43 percent lead for Raese. Within the margin of error, yes, but like the so-called "Kennedy seat" in Massachusetts, the Democrats view the Byrd seat as an inheritance.

But enter the 2010 GOP shift and Manchin's record.

This morning I participated in a bloggers' conference call with Raese who informed us that West Virginia, a major coal producing state, has its own version of cap and trade, which Manchin signed into law last year. It mandates a 25 percent cut in coal usage to replaced by more expensive renewable fuels in the next 15 years.

"Cap and trade is a major issue, obviously, here in West Virginia," Raese said.

What's Raese's plan to win? "Most of West Virgina, Democrats, Republican and independents are extremely conservative and are concerned about the future of the country right now," he told us in what he said was his first blogger call. "And that's what my campaign and what my philosophies have really identified--that [conservative] vote and that's what we're going after."

As for Manchin's Mountain State version of cap and trade, most West Virginians don't know about it. But that's where Raese's campaign comes in. Manchin now says he opposes cap and trade, but "Manchin-style" cap and tax will be a key issue Raese will bring up in the final weeks of the campaign. Manchin is a popular governor, but West Virginians, Raese says, "have an uneasy feeling about him going to Washington."

Manchin is a career politician, which is not a strong selling point in 2010. Raese counters that he is a businessman, a producer of jobs. West Virginia is a big union state, which he plans to use to his advantage, telling us that he is one of the few individuals who have run for office who has employed hundreds of union personnel. His success in running unionized firms "bodes well for my candidacy."

Yes, West Virginia has a two-to-one Democrat to Republican registration advantage, but remember what Raese said about his state's conservatism.

In response to a question I fielded, Raese noted that Manchin is an enthusiastic supporter of President Obama's $862 billion economic stimulus, which has brought funds to the state but not jobs; West Virginia has an 8.8 percent unemployment rate. It was four percent when Manchin became governor six years ago. ObamaCare is unpopular in West Virginia, Manchin supports it, Raese doesn't.

In a bizarre twist, the West Virginia and US Chambers of Commerce endorsed Manchin over Raese, despite the governor's support for anti-business measures such as cap and trade. But Raese is unfazed, quipping, "I thought they endorsed him for governor of West Virginia." But he added that he has been "endorsed straight across the board by the tea parties of West Virginia--I'd rather have that endorsement." He continued, "Because those are the people who are really interested in life in America and the direction of America."

And those are the people who'll be voting en masse on November 2.

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