This race was, like Connecticut, supposed to be a safe harbor for Democrats in a very stormy season.  Now it looks as though their decision to have Joe Manchin run for the remainder of Robert Byrd’s term in the Senate may have been a waste of effort, and possibly self-defeating.  West Virginia voters are moving to Republican John Raese, now outside of the margin of error, in the latest Rasmussen poll, with Raese reaching the 50% mark for the first time:

Republican John Raese now holds a six-point lead on Democratic Governor Joe Manchin in West Virginia’s shockingly competitive U.S. Senate race.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in West Virginia finds Raese with 50% support, while the state’s highly popular governor earns just 44% of the vote. Two percent (2%) prefer some other candidate, and five percent (5%) are undecided. …

Raese, a businessman and unsuccessful Senate candidate in 2006, first edged ahead of Manchin last week 48% to 46%. The race, which initially seemed safely Manchin’s, now appears to be pitting the governor’s popularity in the state versus President Obama’s unpopularity with West Virginia voters.

Rasmussen has moved this from Toss-Up to Leans Republican, a stunning reversal of fortune for Democrats.  Byrd held this seat for nearly 50 years and was tremendously popular with West Virginia voters.  Joe Manchin continues to have high personal approval numbers (69/29) and job approval ratings (69/31).  The rest of the numbers, though, look terrible for Democrats in a state where voters have the option of essentially choosing both candidates — keeping Manchin in the governor’s mansion and putting a Republican in the US Senate to block Barack Obama’s agenda.

Consider these numbers.  Obama’s job approval in WV comes in at a Bush-like 30/69, no doubt in large part due to his push for cap-and-trade and the EPA’s war on coal mining.  On where Manchin belongs, a majority of voters want him where he is now, 53/33, including 35% of Democrats and 61% of independents.  Raese gets 25% of the Democratic vote, with leaners, for that reason.  Almost two-thirds of voters want a repeal of ObamaCare, and 70% believe that Obama’s stimulus package has either hurt the economy or had no effect.  Bear in mind, too, that Rasmussen has released its sample data — and Democrats have a 7-point advantage in it.

Not only does Raese’s sudden surge seem very predictable, it’s also probably not over.  As Jim Geraghty noted earlier this week, once a Senate race gets six points out in the last four weeks of the election cycle, it doesn’t usually come back.  West Virginia voters are looking for the win-win — keeping their popular governor in place and sending Raese to block Democrats’ plans for their agenda.  And in this case, Raese would be seated immediately after winning the election, spoiling Harry Reid’s hopes for a lame-duck policy push.