(CNN) - In Monday's West Virgina Senate debate, Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin sought to claim his independence and Republican John Raese tried to attach Manchin’s name to President Obama’s as much as possible. The other two candidates seemed to act like buffers.
“I have to inform my opponent that Mr. Obama’s name will not be on the ballot for the U.S. Senate in West Virginia,” Manchin said.
Manchin said the Raese campaign is trying to scare West Virginia voters into thinking he’s going to “let somebody control me or be a rubber stamp for somebody that I’ve never been.”
But that didn’t stop Raese from tying Manchin to Obama.
“We have to start lifting jobs and manufacturing where they should be, not like Manchin and Obama,” Raese said. “They enjoy people working for 7 dollars and 25 cents. Quite frankly, I don’t.”
Manchin, the current two-term governor, touted his independence and moderate stands on health care and cap and trade as examples that he won’t be a surefire vote for Democrats in the Senate.
“President Obama or President Bush, I’m an American,” Manchin said. “I want my presidents to succeed. I want my country to succeed, and I will help whoever I can.”
And Raese took hard stands against the current administration, especially on the health care reform legislation that was passed earlier this year.
“I’d like to repeal every part of it because it is pure unadulterated socialism,” Raese said. “It is the worst bill that has ever come out of the United States Senate and House.”
The themes at play during the debate between Manchin and Raese have been constants in the race. Democrats have pursued an anti-Obama strategy in conservative regions of the state and Republicans have repeatedly run ads suggesting Manchin would be a rubberstamp for the Obama agenda in Washington.
The two other candidates on stage Monday were Jess Johnson of the Mountain Party and Jesse Becker of the Constitution party, both of whom seemed frustrated that they did not have more time to address the issues.
Becker referenced the Constitution in nearly every answer and at one point suggested the September 11 terrorist attacks showed evidence of “foreknowledge.”
Johnson said the United States has “socialist constructs” and that the country would not be as successful today if it were based only on capitalism.
The winner of the special election in November will serve the remaining two years of Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd’s term. Byrd died earlier this year after over 50 years in the Senate.
According to the latest CNN/Time/Opinion Research Corporation poll of likely voters, Manchin and Raese are dead even at 44 percent. Among registered voters the poll had a sampling error of 3.5 percentage points.