Projections have now awarded victory to popular West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, defeating Republican hopeful John Raese, keeping the seat in Democratic hands as the successor to Robert Byrd. Manchin had initially seemed like a safe bet for Democrats, with a 60% or so approval rating in the state – but Obama enjoys strongly negative ratings in West Virginia, giving the GOP hope that they could parlay that into a pickup.
The voters of West Virginia must have decided that they thought more of Manchin’s competence as governor. It should be noted that Manchin did his best to steer away from the Democratic agenda, even airing a campaign ad where he shoots a copy of the cap-and-trade bill, simultaneously satisfying both gun rights advocates and opponents of coal industry-crippling taxes.
In any event, Manchin’s win makes the necessary GOP pickup of 10 seats for control of the Senate now nearly out reach. There may yet be some long shot upsets, but the West Virginia seat figured heavily into most computations putting Republicans in control.
By no means does this mean the night is already a failure. Control of the Senate was always, always, a long shot, and really only the most sunny of predictions put Republicans in control there.
But Republicans are still going to be picking up a significant number of Senate seats regardless of West Virginia’s outcome. And the margin of swing in the House is what will determine the historical scope of the night.