MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — According to two recent polls, if U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., were to run for governor of West Virginia in 2016, he would easily defeat all his potential Republican opponents.
In a Global Strategy Group poll released Monday, which reportedly was commissioned by Manchin, in a head-to-head match, he would beat Republican Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia attorney general, by a two-to-one margin, or 60 percent to 30 percent. Morrisey has said he is considering running for governor next year.
Global Strategy Group polled 600 likely 2016 general election voters in West Virginia from March 15-18. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
In a Harper Polling matchup, if the election were held today, Manchin would defeat Morrisey by 58 percent to 29 percent, with 13 percent not sure who they would vote for.
The Harper Polling survey also looked at contests between Manchin and West Virginia Senate President William P. “Bill” Cole III, R-Mercer, and U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., who represents the 1st Congressional district in the northern part of the state. Both have said they are considering running for governor in 2016.
Manchin would win by 54 percent to 32 percent over Cole with 14 percent not sure, and Manchin would beat McKinley 52 percent to 35 percent with 12 percent not sure.
The Harper Polling sampling of 702 likely voters was compiled April 9-11. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percent. It was released Tuesday.
However, according to Harper Polling, GOP candidates stand a much better chance against other possible Democratic candidates for governor.
West Virginia Senate Minority Leader Jeffrey V. “Jeff” Kessler, D-Marshall, has filed pre-candidacy papers to run for governor and Robert Booth Goodwin II, who goes by Booth, the U. S. attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, has been mentioned as a possible candidate, although he has not made any statement about running for governor.
Cole and McKinley would beat Kessler and Goodwin in head-to-head races, but with large percentages of undecided voters, according to Harper Polling.
Morrisey would beat Kessler 38 percent to 35 percent with 27 percent not sure, but would tie Goodwin at 36 percent each and 28 percent not sure.
“If Manchin was on the ticket, he would be able to get the Democratic vote out and that would help local Democratic candidates,” Ken Collinson, chairman of the Berkeley County Democratic Executive Committee, said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “Manchin has the ability to energize and drive people to the polls. That’s his biggest strength.”
Low voter turnout hurt Democratic candidates in the 2014 general election, Collinson said. Only 32 percent of the registered Democrats in Berkeley County voted, while 42 percent of registered Republicans in Berkeley County voted, he said, putting the Democratic candidates immediately at a disadvantage.
Manchin has the potential to hinder some Democrats, Collinson said, because of his stance on guns.
“But local candidates would not be tied to Manchin,” he said. “Each race is individual and each candidate has to run on his own.”
Contacted Tuesday by phone, Gary Kelley, chairman of the Berkeley County Republican Executive Committee, agreed that the gun issue could cause “angst among some groups and they would go somewhere else. Manchin will have to address that issue. It could be a huge problem. This state is a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment.”
Other issues that could create an undertow for Manchin are his stance on immigration and his not standing up to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its so-called war on coal, Kelley said.
“But he would be formidable,” Kelley said. “He would help Democrats more than the last time. He would not get as much support here as in the north central part of the state. He would get the least support in the Eastern Panhandle.”
Kelley is confident that whomever the GOP candidate is, he will get strong backing from local Republicans.
“There still is a lot of enthusiasm from the last election that will carry over to the next election,” he said.
– Staff writer John McVey can be reached at 304-263-3381, ext. 128.