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West Virginia Election Results: Joe Manchin Defeats John Raese In 2010 Senate Race

VICKI SMITH   11/ 2/10 11:51 PM ET   AP

West Virginia Election Results

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin overcame voter anger at President Barack Obama to win West Virginia's Senate race Tuesday, after a campaign in which he literally took up arms in one ad to show his distaste for some of his party's policies.

His Republican rival, businessman John Raese, claimed Manchin would be a "rubber stamp" for Obama's policies, but Manchin succeeded by focusing on his reputation as a leader who kept his state financially sound in hard times and showed a personal side as he responded to mining tragedies.

"We made tremendous strides in the state," Manchin said Tuesday of his six years as governor. "And the reason we did that's because we trusted one another. We worked together."

It was a crucial victory for Democrats struggling to keep control of the Senate. Polls had shown for weeks that they might lose the seat Robert Byrd held for a half-century until his death this year. With 92 percent of precincts reporting, Manchin led with more than 53 percent of the vote, compared with about 43 percent for Raese.

"Tonight we'll celebrate this victory, but tomorrow brings a long, hard road of rebuilding America," Manchin told supporters in Charleston. "I did not change West Virginia alone and I will not be able to change Washington alone. I'll work with everyone who is willing to put this country first."

A teary-eyed Raese conceded less than two hours after the polls closed and apologized to hundreds of cheering supporters. But he touted the revival of the GOP in a state where it's often been lethargic.

He also praised Republican gains across the country and said the party should be looking forward to 2012.

"We're gonna get rid of Obama in that election cycle," he said.

Voters were more worried about jobs than other issues dividing Republicans and Democrats, according to preliminary results of an exit poll conducted for The Associated Press on Tuesday. About six in 10 voters indicated the economy was the biggest issue gripping the nation, while two in 10 said health care was their greatest concern.

Manchin, descended from a family of well-regarded Democrats whose name has been known for generations, had the support of diverse groups, from the United Mine Workers and the West Virginia Coal Association to the National Rifle Association and the state and national chambers of commerce. After two coal-mine disasters in his state that killed a total of 41 men, Manchin is known even among those who don't follow politics as a calming and compassionate presence in a time of crisis.

Manchin set himself apart from Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress by taking up a hunting rifle in one ad to show voters how much he opposes his own party's climate change legislation. He fired a shot into a target labeled "Cap and Trade Bill" and vowed to repeal what he calls "the bad parts of Obamacare."

Raese, who previously ran twice for Senate and once for governor, had joked that his values are more conservative than those of the tea party. He had claimed his ideas about bloated government, unfair taxes and overregulation of industry would resonate with voters.

Raese built his campaign around a single line – "I won't be a rubber stamp for Barack Obama" – and stayed on message in nearly every campaign appearance, interview and ad.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee paid for an ad showing men in flannel shirts and baseball caps worrying that Manchin would side with Obama – but ended up pulling it after it was revealed that the casting call used to hire the actors had sought "a 'Hicky' Blue Collar look." The NRSC fired a Republican production firm over the wording, but not before wrongly blaming the gaffe on the casting firm.

Raese denounced the ad and said his campaign had nothing to do with it, but it still turned off some voters, including Democrat Jim Allison. The 85-year-old retired truck driver from Nitro also wasn't impressed with Raese's attempts to link Manchin to the president, who is very unpopular among West Virginians.

"The only thing he's hollered about is Obama," Allison said of Raese. "Obama's not running in this election. He's not even in it."

Manchin is expected to begin serving the final two years of Byrd's term in mid-November. The 92-year-old Byrd, the longest-serving senator in U.S. history, died in June, and Manchin appointed attorney Carte Goodwin to the seat until an election could be held.

Jay Rockefeller has held the state's other Senate seat since 1985, and both seats have been held by Democrats since Byrd entered the Senate in 1959.

Manchin will be replaced as governor by Senate President Early Ray Tomblin, a 58-year southern West Virginia Democrat who is the state Senate's longest-serving president.

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Associated Press writer Lawrence Messina contributed to this report.

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Filed by Elyse Siegel  |