Robert Byrd is apparently going to help us to limit government spending — even after his demise. He has accomplished this postmortem feat by opening up his Senate seat in time to be included in the deluge that is approaching in the November 2010 election.
When Byrd died, Democrats confidently expected West Virginia's popular governor — Joe Manchin (pronounced mansion) — to win the seat handily.
When Republican John Raese (pronounced racy) jumped into the race, few were surprised and none bothered to recalculate the GOP's chances.
While Raese is wealthy and inclined to spend heavily to win, he had been soundly defeated by Byrd in 2006 for the same seat.
Now comes the first poll in the race by Scott Rasmussen and the results are going to send shockwaves throughout the country.
Manchin leads Raese by only 48-42!
What makes these numbers so significant is that Manchin has a job approval as governor of 70 percent. So more than a third of those who like him as governor don't want him to be the senator. Why not?
The answer is simple: Barack Obama.
West Virginia voted for McCain in 2008 despite a reputation for yellow dog consistency in backing Democrats. But when the Democratic Party declared war on coal as part of its program to reverse global warming, they did little to warm West Virginia's heart. Coal is, of course, as vital to this state's economy as gambling is to Nevada's and Obama's determination to wreck the coal industry is not welcome in West Virginia.
When a governor's job approval ratings are not correlating with an ability to win vote share, he is in desperate trouble. The way politicians usually win office is by raising their approval and favorability ratings.
The fact that Manchin's are already stratospheric but his vote share is under 50, suggests that the linkage between the two is severed, likely with lethal consequences for his Senate candidacy.
For his part, Raese can run against the stimulus package, Obamacare, TARP, and, above all, cap and trade.
Of Manchin's record as the state's chief executive, all he need say is "Keep Manchin as our governor."
Especially since Raese is partly self-funded, he can wage a strong campaign. With West Virginia decidedly in play, the prospects are even brighter for Republican control of the Senate.
By the way, two Republicans running for the House in West Virginia also deserve support and donations.
Republican David McKinley is running for the seat held by Democrat Alan Mollohan who lost his primary contest to challenger Mike Oliverio.
McKinley is a staunch conservative with an excellent chance of winning. And his victory would be a key step in retaking the House.
© Dick Morris & Eileen McGann