The race for Governor of West Virginia is looking more and more like a toss up, with Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin now leading Republican Bill Maloney only 47-46. Tomblin's lead was 46-40 on a poll conducted at the beginning of September and he had led by as large a margin as 33 points earlier in the year.
A lot of money has been spent on attacking Tomblin in the closing weeks of the campaign and that appears to be taking its toll on the Governor's image. His net approval has dropped 13 points in the last four weeks from +25 (50/25) to just +12 (44/32). Attempts to saddle Tomblin with the burden of Barack Obama might be having an impact as well- the President's approval in the state is just 28%, with 63% of voters disapproving of him.
When we polled West Virginia a month ago Maloney led by 65 points with Republicans and 5 points with independents. He currently leads by 65 points with Republicans and 4 points with independents. So there's basically been no change with those voting groups. The shift that's occurred has been with Democrats. Maloney's share of their vote has increased from 17% to 24%, while Tomblin has remained in place at 69%. Maloney has particularly made in roads with conservative Democrats- they now support Tomblin by only a 49-43 margin.
Maloney has proven to be a pretty appealing candidate. 44% of voters have a favorable opinion of him to 33% with a negative one. This race is pretty unusual for the current political climate in that the electorate has a positive opinion of both candidates. But the momentum has been exclusively on Maloney's side over the course of the last 5 months.
One other thing in this poll points to the unique popularity of Joe Manchin- just as a hypothetical we looked to see how Maloney would do if he lost the Gubernatorial race and then challenged Manchin next year. Manchin, who has a 61% approval rating, would lead Maloney by a 31 point margin at 60-29. So he is basically 30 points stronger than Tomblin.
It looks like this race could go either way tomorrow. Maloney's biggest enemy might be the clock- given the overwhelming momentum he's had another month and you have to think he would almost definitely pull out this race. But Tomblin may yet be able to hang on by the skin of his teeth.
Full results here