After a bad couple of weeks, Republicans worried that Joe Manchin might have overtaken John Raese in the race to replace the late Robert Byrd in the US Senate.  A new Fox News poll shows that Manchin made up ground on Raese, but the Republican still holds a narrow lead over the Democrat in West Virginia.  Barack Obama’s agenda worries voters more than a casting call for a political ad, apparently:

Republican John Raese still leads Democrat Joe Manchin in West Virginia’s rough and rowdy Senate race despite a pair of controversial television ads, according to the latest Fox News state poll.

Raese’s lead over Manchin shrank two points from Oct. 2, but his 48 percent to 45 percent lead over the popular second-term governor is still cause for concern among Democrats.

Raese’s lead comes after a bruising two weeks in which an ad agency hired by the National Republican Senatorial Committee got busted looking for “hicky” actors to play parts in an anti-Manchin ad and Manchin produced an ad in which he shot a hole through a copy of President Obama’s global warming legislation with a deer rifle.

The poll of likely voters shows why Manchin might be moved to take more shots at the Obama agenda. Obama’s job approval in the state dropped two points to 27 percent. Sixty two percent of voters said that Obama’s polices had hurt the state’s economy – up two points from Oct. 2 — and 51 percent thought the president’s agenda had hurt their personal finances.

The poll sample shows a nearly 12-point advantage for Democrats, 48.2% to 36.8%.  In 2008, John McCain won the state by thirteen points while Democrats turned out 14 points higher than Republicans, 48/34, according to CNN’s exit polling.  Obama only won 69% of the Democratic votes in that state at the height of his popularity, with 28% going to McCain.  The sample advantage here may be overstating Democratic turnout, but it may not matter a whole lot either way.

That’s because Obama is particularly unpopular in West Virginia.  Overall, his approval rating is 27/63, about as low as it will be in any state this year.  Fifty-nine percent plan to cast their vote in this election as a rebuke to Obama’s policies, including 60% of independents and more than a third of Democrats, at 36%.  Meanwhile, 76% of likely voters polled are either dissatisfied or angry about the way the federal government is working, and 62% believe Obama administration policies have hurt West Virginia.  Those are not numbers that will bring voters out in force for Manchin and an additional vote for the Senate Democratic caucus.

Raese seems to have weathered the hicky storm, and Manchin’s boost from shooting a hole through a copy of the cap-and-trade bill has failed to materialize.  This election will be a referendum on the Democratic agenda, and since West Virginians can keep Manchin as governor while sending a Republican to stymie the Obama agenda in Washington, the vote will likely swing to the “best of both worlds” scenario.

Update: McCain won by 13, not 7.  When I read it the first time, I could have sworn it read 53/46, but it was 56/43.  Thanks to Eric P for the correction.