CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin is hoping his two years on Capitol Hill will prompt West Virginia voters to return him for six more, while John Raese is urging them to make a change.
Manchin, a Democrat, has campaigned as an independent voice for the state who has disagreed with President Barack Obama over such issues as coal, federal spending and the national debt. A Republican courting the tea party vote, Raese argues that Manchin has helped the Democrats maintain a majority in the Senate that has allowed Obama to pursue his agenda. Unpopular in West Virginia, Obama is widely expected to lose the state's five electoral votes as he did in 2008.
Manchin and Raese had similarly sparred when they ran in a 2010 special election prompted by the death of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd. A popular governor midway through his second term, Manchin overcame Raese's attempt to tie him to Obama - partly with a now-famous ad that showed Manchin shooting a rifle at the president's carbon emissions legislation. Raese lost by just over 10 percent of the vote.
The 65-year-old Democrat has sought to build on that maverick image in this year's rematch. He's won the endorsement of the state Chamber of Commerce, the West Virginia Coal Association and the NRA, and outraised Raese more than eightfold. Raese has attracted less than $530,000 from contributors, and the multimillionaire and industrialist has loaned his campaign nearly $800,000.
But after repeatedly supporting his bids for office, the state's largest anti-abortion group has targeted Manchin for defeat over his votes regarding the federal health care overhaul and Planned Parenthood. Endorsing Raese, West Virginians for Life urged votes against the incumbent in fliers distributed outside churches the Sunday before Election Day.
"(Manchin) has kind of betrayed the pro-life movement, and I am very pro-life," said 60-year-old Janet Adams of Newburg, who voted for Raese.
But Jeanie Farley and her husband of 55 years, Rick, said they voted against Raese. Among other concerns, the two Democrats cited the Republicans' economic proposals.
"It looks like the middle class has disappeared," said Rick Farley, 76.
Raese is chairman of the board of West Virginia Radio Corp. and the MetroNews radio network, and chief executive of steel and limestone producer Greer Industries. Besides the 2010 contest, Raese lost three previous statewide campaigns, including two for the Senate.
Manchin isn't just campaigning in West Virginia. He endorsed Joe Donnelly, a Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful in Indiana, in a video last month. He taped a similar spot last week for Democrat Bob Kerry in Nebraska's Senate race.
Running along with Manchin and Raese is Mountain Party candidate Bob Henry Baber. Baber has called for balancing energy needs with the environment and for heeding signs that Appalachian mining is in decline while arguing that both of his opponents are too close to the coal industry.