W.V. Voters Consider Change in U.S. Senate Race

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Just a few months ago, it appeared West Virginia's Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin would easily win the state's open U.S. Senate seat over Republican businessman John Raese. But now the race has grown much closer.

"I'm excited," said Debra Hofland, a Republican volunteer. "It's close. There's finally a Senate race here in West Virginia."

Democrat Joe Manchin considers himself a social conservative.

"I think they're very pleased with where we are in the state," said Manchin. "Very proud of who we are as West Virginians and we're going to work just as hard, if not harder, in Washington."

Autograph requests along a parade route provide some evidence of the governor's near 70 percent approval rating.

However, his opponent, Raese has something Manchin doesn't -- he's a Republican. That's music to the ears of some West Virginians anxious for a leader to fight against the Obama agenda.

"I think we're picking up a lot of momentum in West Virginia right now," Raese said.

The winner of this race will replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd, the powerful, often controversial Democrat known for bringing in money for the state. However, this year big spending in Washington, D.C. and new programs on top of a recession have many in the Mountaineer State considering a change.

"I think people are just tired," said Josa Kilmer, a West Virginia voter. "They want to see people and they want their elected officials to do what they ask them to do."

Mary Beth Blair owns a small graphics design firm and said this has been her most challenging year.

"I am the face of small business in America and I have not felt anything in a positive way from the current administration so I have to blame it on that," Blair said.

Manchin is distancing himself from more liberal Democrats and has promised to take aim at some of President Barack Obama policies like cap and trade. Yet, Raese is trying to blow holes through that strategy using Manchin's own words.

Voter Andre McDonald said Democrats just need more time.

"I'm definitely leaning towards Manchin without a doubt," said McDonald.

However, not everyone has made up their mind.

"I kind of wish there was another candidate to choose from," said Mike Cox, owner of Mike's Contracting.

Along with the economy and sky high health insurance costs, Cox is concerned that Raese's wife, Elizabeth, is registered to vote in Florida where the couple owns a home.

"If he was strictly from here, I'd probably go Republican," Cox said. "Because the way the Democrats are going right now it just isn't going very well.

"I guess only time will tell and I can't see it getting much worse so hopefully it will get better," said Mike Cox, Jr., Cox's son.

It is a common wish among voters as they decide whether or not to buck a trend that has favored West Virginia Democrats for decades.

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Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.