Kavanaugh effect? New GOP poll has Manchin's lead in West Virginia down to ... one point

If we didn’t have a bunch of independent polls showing Republicans surging in red-state Senate races, I wouldn’t bother with this one. It’s a GOP poll, it’s likely self-serving, it’s a major outlier from the RCP average, where Manchin leads comfortably by 9.4 points.

But it must be noted: The last independent poll of West Virginia was finished on September 26th. That was the day before the Ford/Kavanaugh hearing, days before the FBI probe was ordered, and more than a week before the Senate finally voted to confirm the newest justice. Two weeks is a long time in politics in the Trump era. Has Manchin lost eight points off his lead in that stretch? Probably not. But if you’d asked me how likely it was that Marsha Blackburn might bounce out to a 17-point lead in her own race in Tennessee after trailing Democrat Phil Bredesen for much of it, I’d have said, “Highly unlikely.” So here we are.

If in fact West Virginia is now neck-and-neck, the spin will be interesting in light of Manchin’s Kavanaugh vote. Righties will point to it and say, “See? This guy would be getting wiped out like Heidi Heitkamp right now if he’d have voted no. Voting yes was obviously the right call.” Lefties, meanwhile, will point to it and say, “See? Manchin voted yes and still saw his lead disintegrate among ungrateful West Virginia voters. You can’t appease right-wingers, who hate Democrats for what they believe, by voting with them sometimes. He should have voted no.”

Manchin led Morrisey 41 to 40 percent in the survey conducted for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Morrisey’s campaign and obtained first by Roll Call…

The poll went into the field the day after the Senate voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Manchin was the only Democrat to vote for Kavanaugh on Saturday…

Manchin has led in recent public and private polling of the race. In a Tarrance Group survey conducted for the Senate Leadership Fund Sept. 23-25, Manchin led Morrisey 47 to 43 percent. Manchin’s own polling of the race, conducted Sept. 19-23, gave him a 12-point lead.

Serious question: How many voters even know how their state’s senators voted on Kavanaugh? Some obviously do, but there’s a reason low-information voters are called “low information.” There’s surely a contingent on both sides in every state that simply assumes their senator voted the way his or her party did — and in the Kavanaugh matter, those assumptions would be accurate 98 percent of the time. The only two outliers are Alaska and West Virginia. And unlike Manchin, Lisa Murkowski would *benefit* from that false assumption. There may be casual voters up north who heard that Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Republican majority, assumed Murkowski voted yes, and are pleased as punch. In West Virginia, the assumption would work the other way: The g-ddamned Democrats voted no. And Joe Manchin’s a Democrat.

The AP wrote about the reaction back home to Manchin’s “yes” vote a few days ago. It’s a mixed bag, as you’d expect. Some Republicans are happy and some Democrats are, uh…

Danielle Walker cried on Joe Manchin’s shoulder after she shared her story of sexual assault in the senator’s office. She thought he listened.

The 42-year-old Morgantown woman said she was both devastated and furious when Manchin became the only Democrat in the U.S. Senate to support President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

“I feel raped all over again,” Walker told The Associated Press…

“At some point you have to draw a line,” [local Democratic Party official Julia] Hamilton said. “I have heard from many, many people — especially women. They won’t be voting for Manchin either.”

That’s another reason why I’m skeptical of the new GOP poll but not incredulous. Manchin, like Bredesen, may be getting it from both sides, watching Patrick Morrisey’s numbers rise as angry Republicans rally to send a message to Democrats nationally and watching his own numbers erode as angry Democrats flee in protest of his support for Kavanaugh. A nine-point lead shrinking to one in the span of two weeks is implausible. But certainly not impossible in the current climate.

West Virginia’s a red state, though. How is the Kavanaughpocalypse playing in purple states? Two other polls out tonight have mixed but interesting results. In Minnesota, which was very purple in 2016 but maybe/probably bluer when Trump’s not on the ballot, Democrat Tina Smith is suddenly up big, now leading Karin Housley by 16 points. That’s in line with NBC’s last poll of the race in July, which had her ahead by 14, but all other polls of the state recently saw her lead shrinking to single digits. It may be that Housley had begun to catch up to Smith and then the Democratic backlash to Kavanaugh reversed the trend. On the other hand, in purplish Wisconsin, Scott Walker finally has his first lead of the campaign, edging Democrat Tony Evers by one point. If that sounds underwhelming, note that Evers had led or been tied in six of eight polls taken this year. (One had him ahead by double digits.) Last month the same pollster responsible for today’s survey, Marquette, had him up five. Now Walker’s gained six points on him. I wonder why.