WHEELING, W.Va. (AP) -- Second-term Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin won re-election with ease a little more than 22 months ago and has the support of both organized labor and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as he runs for the Senate. But he still finds himself in political trouble.
Chalk that up to President Barack Obama's deep unpopularity in West Virginia and persistent efforts by Republicans to link him to the governor.
West Virginia, which hasn't sent a Republican to the Senate since 1958, is one of a dozen or more states where the GOP is trying to use the president as a weight to sink Democratic candidates.
With a disciplined drumbeat, Republicans hoping to gain control of the House and possibly the Senate are painting Democrats as mere yes-men to the president and the party that controls Washington. In Indiana, Republicans are airing a television ad with video of Obama and Democratic Senate hopeful Brad Ellsworth. In Missouri, Republicans are using footage of Obama with Democratic Senate candidate Robin Carnahan.
Take that strategy to West Virginia.
"If you want an Obama rubber stamp, Manchin is your guy,'' Republican candidate John Raese routinely tells voters.
The race is to replace the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who served more than a half-century and was widely known for sending billions of dollars in federal funds to his state for highways, federal installations and more. Raese says he's opposed to earmarks.
"Generally speaking, D.C. is not a popular place right now,'' said Rod Snyder, vice president of the Young Democrats of America and a native of West Virginia.
"I have an idea who I'm voting for, but I haven't made up my mind for sure,'' said Brett Bowlen, a regional sales executive who voted for both Obama and Manchin in 2008. "It's really going to be a heated race and I want to hear more, just to be sure.''
Obama got only 43 percent of the vote in losing West Virginia in 2008, but Manchin coasted to a second term as governor with 70 percent.
Manchin declined to be interviewed, but Democratic strategists who follow the race said the 63-year-old governor must find a way to separate himself politically from the president. Republicans hope to prevent that, and keep reminding the voters of the connections between the two: