Tight Races Mean Likely Long Nights in the Two Virginias

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat, and Patrick Morrisey, the state’s Republican attorney general, during a recent debate, with moderator and radio “dean” of West Virginia broadcasters, Hoppy Kercheval.

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – The biggest midterm election in a generation is now less than 24 hours away, with voters being asked to decide whether President Donald Trump’s no-holds-barred politics will define Washington, D.C., for at least the next two years or if Democrats have made a convincing argument for ending the GOP monopoly in the nation’s capitol.

In the Virginias, the most watched race has the one between Incumbent West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat, and Patrick Morrisey, the state’s Republican Attorney General.

On Friday, Trump held an airport rally in Huntington, West Virginia, to bolster Morrisey in the tight race, telling the crowd who greeted him inside a massive hangar that “Joe will never be with us. He’s never going to vote for us.”

But that was not exactly accurate.

Manchin did join his fellow Democrats in voting against the Republican tax cuts last year, but he broke with his caucus and voted in favor of both of Trump’s Supreme Court nominees: Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Two recent polls, both released last week, show Manchin slightly ahead of Morrisey, but his margin fells well within their margin of error.

An Emerson College poll released Thursday, showed Manchin at 47 percent and Morrisey at 42 percent, with 8 percent of likely voters saying they were still undecided.

Forty-six percent of likely voters in the same poll also said they had a more positive image of Manchin, while only 35 percent said they viewed Morrissey favorably.

That’s why Morrisey was particularly thankful for Trump’s participation in his campaign. As West Virginia voters prepared to head to the polls, a solid 56 percent said they had a favorable view of the president and the job he is doing.

The latest MetroNews Dominion Post West Virginia Poll, also released Thursday, also has Manchin up by 5 percentage points over Morrisey.

The poll shows 45 percent of likely voters favoring Manchin, 40 percent favoring Morrisey, 11 percent for Libertarian Rusty Hollen and 5 percent undecided.

What’s noteworthy about this poll is that it shows Manchin’s margin for victory getting smaller the closer election day comes. The same poll, in August, had the incumbent ahead by 8 points.

In Virginia, polls have incumbent Democratic Senator Tim Kaine up by as much as 20 points over his challenger, Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, but he pressed into the weekend with a full schedule, attending three rallies, a business breakfast and a fish fry.

On Monday, he was joined on the hustings by former President Barack Obama for a last-minute, get-the-vote-out push.

Speaking on behalf of both Kaine and Democratic congressional candidate Jennifer Wexton, told attendees at one stop that he was there to “make sure that people vote to start making things better.”

“When you do that, the spirit of America is going to shine,” he said.

Trump has endorsed Stewart, but so far, only via a tweet, and given the president has three rallies scheduled for Monday, that endorsement is likely to be all there is for Stewart from the White House.

Stewart, who won the Republican primary in an upset over the party’s preferred candidate, state Delegate Nick Freitas, has struggled to distance himself from his past association with Jason Kesseler, one of the organizers of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia at which one counter-protester died.

One of Virginia’s most watched races Tuesday night will be the one between Wexton and incumbent Republican Barbara Comstock in the state’s 10th Congressional District.

The most recent Washington Post poll, released last week, has Wexton up by 11 points, while an earlier New York Times/Siena poll, released October 15, had her up by seven points.

Political pundits have said a Wexton victory Tuesday night will be an early indicator of a political “blue-wave” coming to pass, and of the importance of the suburban vote in determining the future direction of the country.

But the Wexton-Comstock battle isn’t the only one that will be closely watched Tuesday. In the final days of campaigning, races in Virginia’s 2nd, 5th and 7th Congressional Districts have also tightened considerably.

The race in Virginia’s coastal 2nd Congressional District, in which incumbent Republican Scott Taylor is being challenged by Democrat Elaine Lauria, has also been noteworthy due to a scandal that is still unfolding.

Taylor’s campaign is facing allegations that his staffers helped forge the signatures that gave an independent candidate the support she needed to get on the ballot in November.

A judge decided to remove the independent candidate from the ballot because of the forgeries, but a criminal investigation is ongoing after it was discovered dozens, if not hundreds, of the collected  signatures were either forged or were the names of dead people.

Taylor said he fired the staff members connected to the signature collection, but campaign finance reports showed money was paid out this month to those he promised to fire in early September.

The race in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District was similarly thrown into chaos after incumbent Republican Tom Garrett, announced his retirement and his alcoholism, in the wake of a Politico report in which he was accused of abusing staffers.

As a result of the abrupt and unexpected resignation, state Republicans scrambled for a new candidate and ultimately chose political newcomer  Denver Riggleman, a distillery owner.

He is running against Democrat Leslie Cockburn, a former journalist, and, according to an October 22 poll by the New York Times, holds only a 1 point lead over his challenger.

In an effort to boost Riggleman, Trump tweeted out his support for the candidate but inaccurately labeled him the incumbent. The president then sent out a corrected tweet, removing the word “congressman,” but also thanking him for helping to pass tax cuts which, not being in Congress at the time, Riggleman could not do.

The other hotly contested race in Virginia is in the 7th Congressional District.

Incumbent Republican Dave Brat made headlines in 2014 when he ousted former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary race.

Brat’s Democratic opponent is former CIA Agent Abigail Spanberger, who has a one point lead in the race, according to an October 29 poll by the Wason Center for Public Policy.

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