Hoppy’s Commentary for Thursday


Many Democrats running statewide this year are trying to perfect their tightrope walking skills, thanks to one of the least popular presidents in West Virginia’s history.

First it was Senator Joe Manchin, who equivocated when I asked him on Metronews Talkline whether he would vote for Barack Obama.  Later, Manchin told a Washington reporter, “I am just waiting for it to play out.  I am not jumping in one way or another.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of his party’s nominee.

Now it’s Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. He issued a statement Wednesday putting him squarely, uh, nowhere in the presidential race.

“I do not believe either candidate has a real understanding of what is important to West Virginia,” Tomblin said.  “Neither President Obama nor Governor Romney has earned my vote at this point.”

That’s about the best a West Virginia Democrat can manage in this environment; it appears to place Tomblin in the position of an undecided voter. 

Obama is wildly unpopular in West Virginia.  Perhaps only former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship and former WVU football coach Rich Rodriguez have lower approval ratings.

But Obama will still be at the top of the Democratic ticket when voters go to the polls in this year’s Primary and General Elections.  Manchin and Tomblin, along with Democratic 3rd district Congressman Nick Rahall, and every other Democrat in a competitive race, are worried that Obama will drag them down.

And Obama is down there pretty far in the Mountain State.  A poll by R.L. Repass & Partners done for the Charleston Daily Mail has Romney ahead of Obama 54-37 in West Virginia; a remarkable advantage given the state has almost twice as many Democrats as Republicans.

And Obama’s numbers are not going to improve here. West Virginia is irrelevant to his re-election. The EPA has free reign to pummel the coal industry that is so vital to the state’s economy and that, along with the fact that West Virginia is a conservative state, leaves Obama trailing badly.

 As UMWA President Cecil Roberts said, a few states have coal, but there are environmentalists in all 50 states.  

Somehow, Manchin, Tomblin, Rahall and the rest must find a way to distance themselves from the President without alienating the state’s hard-core Democrats who will still support Obama.  Plus, there’s something inherent in the two-party system that just keeps members from completely discarding their own.

Republicans, naturally, are having a field day. Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Maloney fired off a release Wednesday saying, “I don’t know why Earl Ray is so confused who to vote for.”  Interestingly, however, Maloney did not provide a ringing endorsement of Romney. 

Republican Attorney General candidate Patrick Morrisey also issued a release saying he supports his party’s nominee and he called on current Attorney General Darrell McGraw to say whether he supports Obama.

For the Democrats, the question is how long they can continue to parse the presidential politics question.  The long tightrope leads all the way to November, leaving plenty of time for a misstep. 







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