(CNN) - A new poll indicates the Senate battle in West Virginia is dead even, where the GOP hopes to capture a seat held by the Democrats for over half a century.
According to a CNN/Time/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Wednesday, 44 percent of likely voters support popular two-term Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin, the Democratic nominee, with an equal amount backing businessman John Raese, the Republican nominee. Five percent of those questioned support Jesse Johnson of the Mountain Party and three percent are undecided.
The winner of the special election in November will fill out the final two years of the term of Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd, who died earlier this year. Byrd was first elected to the Senate in 1958.
Among the larger sampling of registered voters, Manchin holds a 45 to 38 percent advantage over Raese, who lost to Byrd in the state's 2006 Senate election, with Johnson at seven percent.
The poll indicates that Manchin has the support of eight in ten Democrats, with Raese grabbing the backing of eight in ten Republicans. Independent voters are split, with 39 percent backing Manchin and 40 percent supporting Raese.
In a recent Manchin campaign commercial, the governor says he will "take dead aim at the Cap and Trade bill" before firing a rifle at what appears to be a copy of the Democratic-backed legislation on clean energy and climate change reform, which is unpopular in West Virginia.
The poll suggests the ad may be helping the governor against charges by Raese that he will be a rubber stamp for President Barack Obama's agenda if he goes to Washington.
"Manchin's best region is in the southern part of the state where most of West Virginia's coal mines are found. He pulls 55 percent in that area, which is six to ten points better than Barack Obama or John Kerry got in the last two presidential elections," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "But Raese does almost as well in the eastern part of the state, including the eastern panhandle, where coal is also important to the local economy. The two split the Ohio Hills area in the west."
According to the poll, Obama is very unpopular in the state, with just 32 percent of likely voters approving of the job the president's doing in the White House, with 63 percent disapproving. The president's approval rating drops to 28 percent among all West Virginia adults.
Another ad may be impacting the race as well. Raese's campaign recently ran a commercial that showed three West Virginia voters saying Manchin should stay "right here in West Virginia." But, they weren't West Virginia voters, and they weren't even in West Virginia. Instead, the spot was shot in Philadelphia, and the three men were hired actors. The casting notice for the ad, which was paid for by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, called for actors with a "'Hicky' Blue Collar look," sparking outrage from Democrats.
The ad was taken down in light of the controversy, but days later Manchin's campaign hit back with its own ad.
"John Raese thinks we're hicks. His people hired actors from Philadelphia to attack Joe Manchin and told them to dress hicky," the narrator says in the commercial.
"We asked voters whether they would describe their family are white-collar or blue-collar," Holland notes. "Almost six in ten say they are from blue-collar families, and among that key group it's a tie - 44 percent for each candidate."
The CNN/Time/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted October 8-12, with 1,507 adults, including 1,273 registered voters and 783 likely voters questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, with a sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for likely voters.
–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report