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Election 2010: Manchin, Raese contest in W.Va. could offer early signal to Senate outcome

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By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 2, 2010; 3:04 PM

The last time West Virginians elected a new senator to the seat up for grabs Tuesday it was 1958, college football's West Virginia Mountaineers went 4-5-1 and then-Rep. Robert C. Byrd (D) beat incumbent Republican William Chapman Revercomb.

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This year, the Mountaineers are 5-3, Byrd is dead after the longest Senate career in U.S. history and businessman John Raese, 60, is trying to retake the Senate seat for Republicans. But he'll have to get past the enormously popular Gov. Joe Manchin III, a moderate Democrat known to most of the country as the man who led the state's response to two deadly coal mine disasters.

Independent political observers consider the Senate race close but give Manchin, 63, a slight edge. Polling suggests the race is tightening thanks partly to a series of Democratic attack ads that highlight that Raese's wife lives in Palm Beach, Fla.

Polls close statewide at 7:30 p.m., meaning that West Virginia could offer an early signal of how the Senate's balance of power may play out.

Party and state officials reported few problems across the state Tuesday and none causing significant concerns. West Virginia voter turnout for midterm Congressional elections usually hovers between 40 and 50 percent, and party officials do not expect it to exceed the 49 percent of register voters who showed up in 1994.

A few of the state's voting machines had been mistakenly set back to daylight savings time and were reset by poll workers, according to West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant. In one county, an official accidentally tripped over a vote-counting machine and broke it; workers plan to use a replacement machine, she said.

Tennant, a former television anchor, offered West Virginians hourly updates Tuesday during a series of webcasts she hosted from her office in the state capitol.

A few miles away, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.) voted at a Charleston Methodist church and predicted Republicans will gain at least 50 seats in the House as part of an anti-Democratic, anti-incumbent wave against Washington.

"Having been there for 10 years as the sole [West Virginia] Republican, I'm going to get some company, I like that," Capito said, predicting that Congressional Republicans will try to repeal health-care reform and pay down the government's debt.

"We've got lots to do and I hope the president is willing to work together. Our mission is going to be to listen to what people are saying and to respond," she said.

State officials said Monday that 108,212 voters had cast early ballots, a much higher figure than in the 2006 midterms, but lower than the presidential election years of 2004 and 2008.

Raese (pronounced race-ee) runs Greer Industries, a collection of companies including radio stations across the state and limestone and asphalt plants. He has lost three previous statewide campaigns - two for the Senate and one for governor. He has cast Manchin in television ads as a potential "rubber stamp" for President Obama's policies. Despite the attacks, ads by the National Republican Senatorial Committee call Manchin "a good governor."


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