CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If Facebook "likes" decided the general election, Sen. Joe Manchin again would see a landslide victory against John Raese, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Maloney would squeak out a narrow win over Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, and Darrell McGraw, the state's longtime attorney general, would be unseated by Republican challenger Patrick Morrisey.
The results would be quite different if Twitter users were left to decide candidates' fates: Manchin would win by an even wider margin, Tomblin would trounce Maloney and McGraw would get to keep his job.
These Internet popularity contests may not be the most accurate way of polling voters, but a candidates' number of Facebook likes and Twitter followers can give some insight into the amount of popular support he or she enjoys.
Manchin's official Facebook page had 9,883 likes as of Thursday afternoon, while just 1,610 Facebook users had liked the "John Raese for Senate" page. On Twitter, Manchin had 6,417 followers on his official U.S. Senate account and 1,776 on his campaign account. Raese had just 287.
Further down the ticket in the governor's race, Maloney's campaign page had 2,732 Facebook likes and 1,080 Twitter followers. Tomblin trailed on Facebook by a relatively narrow margin with 2,679 likes and won narrowly on Twitter with 1,731 followers.
Republican attorney general candidate Patrick Morrisey is one of the state's most popular candidates on Facebook — in any race, from any party — with 4,741 likes as of Thursday afternoon.
Incumbent Attorney General Darrell McGraw, meanwhile, had 1,108 likes on Facebook, split between two pages. McGraw's campaign Facebook page had 658 while a separate Facebook page for the attorney general's office had 450 likes. The latter account is not used for campaign-related posts, however.
It's a slightly different story on Twitter.
Morrisey had only 304 Twitter followers while McGraw's official "WV Attorney General" account had 1,131. McGraw's campaign does not appear to have a Twitter account.
Obviously, this isn't the most scientific of political polls. There are many problems with using Facebook or Twitter to predict a race. There's no way to tell, for instance, if the people who are "liking" or "following" the candidates are registered voters. They might not even live in West Virginia.
It's also common practice for users to "like" and "follow" both candidates in a race simply because they want to receive news and updates from both parties.
There are other issues, too.
Facebook and Twitter do not publish state-by-state totals of users, but West Virginians rank 40th in the nation in Internet usage, according to 2010 Census data. Just 60 percent of Mountain State residents access the Internet from home.
Still, state political operatives say social media are now a necessary addition to all those yard signs, mailers, TV commercials, newspaper ads and football program advertisements.
"We see it as a bridge to the future," said Rob Cornelius, spokesman for the West Virginia Young Republicans.
"You can direct your message very specifically. When I buy a TV ad in Charleston, I'm wasting 65 percent of my money because most of those people live in Ohio and Kentucky."