By HOPPY KERCHEVAL
MORGANTOWN -- The latest TV ad by the National Republican Senatorial Committee is the most direct indicator of Gov. Joe Manchin's serious problem this election year.
The ad shows a couple of regular guys sitting in a coffee shop. The first man says, "Obama's messin' things up." The second guy adds, "Spending money we don't have."
Later in the conversation, the second man says, "Joe's not bad as Governor, but when he's with Obama..." That's followed by the first guy who says, "Yeah, well, we better keep Joe Manchin right here in West Virginia... it's the only way we're going to stop Obama."
There you have it in West Virginia. Obama is "messin' things up" and, while Manchin is a pretty good governor, he will turn into "Washington Joe" and support Obama if he gets to the Senate.
And if there's one thing West Virginian's don't want, it's the Obama agenda.
Of course there are other issues in the race between Joe Manchin and John Raese. And on at least one issue they agree—keep the Bush tax cuts. But no issue has reached anywhere near the magnitude of the Obama spending and health care law.
A new Fox News poll has Raese ahead of Manchin. This one, taken Oct. 2, has Raese with 48 percent and Manchin with 43. But the elephant in the room is the Obama numbers.
The president's approval rating in West Virginia is just 29 percent. Fox News political analyst Chris Stirewalt writes, "Only 12 percent believe that Obama's policies have helped the state economically, while 55 percent in the coal-rich state believe they have hurt."
But that's not all.
Stirewalt reports, "Even among Manchin supporters, 18 percent still said they hoped their vote would register dissatisfaction with the Obama agenda... (and) of the 6 percent still undecided in the race, more than two thirds hoped their eventual decision would register their disapproval of Obama."
No wonder Manchin is campaigning saying he's an independent voice who will stand up to Obama.
Meanwhile, Raese's conservative message is playing well with voters.
The Fox poll finds that 53 percent of West Virginians are supportive of the Tea Party movement, including 31 percent who are strongly supportive. Just 30 percent oppose the Tea Party.
These numbers help Raese. He likes to joke that he was a conservative before it became popular to be conservative and that he's "to the right" of the Tea Party.
Manchin's popularity remains high in West Virginia. The Fox poll finds that 66 percent approve of his job performance and 65 percent have a positive view of him personally.
It's a strange political conundrum that Manchin didn't see coming.
The "stop Obama" movement in West Virginia is real, and it's a giant hurdle that Manchin is having trouble scaling.
Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.
(Editors Note: Metronews is a division of West Virginia Radio Corp., which is owned by John Raese and Kercheval has noted that he has contributed to Raese's campaign.)