Democratic Panic in Wisconsin and West Virginia

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 21 2010 1:36 PM

Democratic Panic in Wisconsin and West Virginia

A pair of Public Policy Polling surveys in Wisconsin and West Virginia, states that were on nobody's electoral map in May or June, show Republicans with decent shots of winning safe Democratic seats. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) is down by 11 points , with Ron Johnson -- who after Chris Coons must be the least-covered frontrunner of the cycle -- at 52 percent. West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin is trailing businessman and two-time failed candidate John Raese by 3 points, even though the democratic governor, Manchin, has a 70 percent approval rating.

I see a pattern in these two races, beyond the obvious one about Barack Obama being unpopular. The environmental movement is dead. It might be a pleasant, zombie kind of death, like the one conservatives experienced in 2008. But Wisconsin's Johnson* has been hammered over his denial of man-made climate change to no effect so far. West Virginia is obviously in open rebelliion over environmentalism -- Rep. Allan Mollohan (D-W.V.) lost a primary this year not just because corruption stories caught up with him, but because he dithered over a cap-and-trade vote. (He eventually voted no.)

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I think I've said this before, but what is more telling of the Democratic Party's instincts that it chose to schedule a special election for the late Robert Byrd's seat this year when they had the ability to delay it? (The upside, if Democrats blow it, is that the seat is up again in 2012. That's also the downside if they win it.)

*Sorry about that.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.