DOOM Watch WV: Sen. Manchin, Gov. Tomblin, Rep. Rahall to Skip Democratic National Convention

Facing tomorrow’s deadline to declare their intended votes as superdelegates at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, Senator Joe Manchin, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, and Congressman Nick Rahall declared this afternoon that they will not attend the convention, the Charleston Daily Mail reports.

Senator Manchin, Governor Tomblin, and Congressman Rahall all face stiff opposition in November.

Senator Manchin faces a rematch with 2010 opponent, conservative businessman John Raese.  In 2010, Manchin briefly fell behind Raese in the polls before producing a TV ad in which Manchin took target practice with the cap-and-trade bill supported by President Obama and lied through his teeth about whether he would support repealing Obamacare.  Despite having lost several previous senatorial contests, this year is John Raese’s best shot at winning a Senate seat.  More importantly, he is the strongest candidate West Virginia Republicans could run against Senator Manchin.  In 2010, John Raese was endorsed by Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund. When I say John Raese is conservative, I mean he will make Jim DeMint look like a “sensible moderate” to the Beltway media and punditry.

Governor Tomblin faces a rematch of the surprisingly close 2011 special election in which he narrowly edged out oil & gas developer Bill Maloney.  This special election was required to fill the balance of Joe Manchin’s term of office as governor following Manchin’s election to the U.S. Senate in a 2010 special election following the death of Senator Robert C. Byrd.  Tomblin is a quiet, low-key career politician.  Tomblin was first elected to the House of Delegates during his senior year of college in 1974.  He served in the House of Delegates until 1980, when he was elected to the state Senate, where he became chairman of the finance Committee in 1987 and its President in 1995, where he served until his election as governor in 2011.  Upon Joe Manchin’s resignation as governor, Tomblin, as President of the Senate, served as acting governor until the next election.  Governor Tomblin has largely been marking time in office and using the governorship (which pays nearly 6 times the Senate President’s salary) to generously pad his state pension when he retires (either now or in 2016).

Congressman Nick Rahall, at age 63, has spent most of his life in Congress.  First elected in 1976, at the age of 27, Rahall faced his closest challenge in decades in 2010 from retired West Virginia Supreme Court Justice and former Democrat Elliott “Spike” Maynard.  Prior to his election to Congress, Rahall worked as an aide to Senator Byrd and briefly worked in his family’s radio business.  While Rahall is extremely wealthy and can (as he did in 1976) self-finance his campaign if necessary, he has historically depended on lobbyists and PACs to bankroll most of his congressional campaigns.  While Rahall won in 2010, the cost of his most recent victory was the depletion of his campaign account.

This year, Congressman Rahall faces a rematch with 2004 opponent Rick Snuffer.  Snuffer, now a member of the House of Delegates, now has a significantly greater base of support than when he first challenged Congressman Rahall in 2004.  Congressman Rahall has no home base, having lost his home county of Raleigh to Snuffer (who also lives in Raleigh County) in 2004 and to Maynard in 2010 (among other years when his home county rejected him).  In 2004, Snuffer ran a shoestring campaign, as the Republican Party was more focused on defending Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-Charleston, who was first elected in 2000 and faced several tough electoral fights with well-financed Democrats early in her congressional career. Capito and her father, former Congressman (1956-1968) and Governor (1968-1976, 1984-1988) Arch A. Moore, Jr., are the only two West Virginia Republicans to have been elected and reelected to the House of Representatives since 1932.  They will be joined this year by Congressman David McKinley, R-Wheeling, who, after winning one of the closest contests in the country in 2010, faces only token opposition this year from former Obama campaign worker Sue Thorn (2014 is another story, as McKinley has developed a disappointing voting record in the House and will likely face a primary challenge in the future).  Capito also faces token opposition in November, when she will surpass her father as West Virginia’s longest-serving Republican Member of Congress since 1932.

Much has changed in West Virginia since 2004.  In 2004, the battle for West Virginia Republicans was to hold on to their only congressional seat.  In 2012, they now have a chance to sweep the congressional delegation.  Earlier this month, the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee announced that Rick Snuffer achieved NRCC “Young Gun” status, signaling that he has met organizational and fundraising benchmarks and has established himself as a strong contender.  Next week, Snuffer will be the beneficiary of a Charleston fundraiser held by Rep. Capito and House Speaker John Boehner.  In all his campaigns and during his time in the House of Delegates, Rick Snuffer has been a staunch conservative who has energized the grassroots and, if elected in November, will be a strong and much-needed new conservative voice from West Virginia in DC.

Why would Senator Manchin, Governor Tomblin, and Congressman Rahall skip the DNC?  Well, in 2008, John McCain handily carried West Virginia, a state that had not voted for a losing Republican presidential candidate since 1916.  West Virginia is the only state that went from voting for Michael Dukakis in 1988 to John McCain in 2008.  McCain carried West Virginia by a higher margin in 2008 than George W. Bush carried the state in 2004.  Now, West Virginia Democrats face the prospect of being on the losing end of a massive rout in the presidential election that threatens even the state’s most popular and enduring Democratic politicians.  If anyone had any doubt as to President Obama’s unpopularity, last month, federal prison inmate Keith Judd received 42% of the vote in West Virginia’s semi-closed (open only to registered Democrats and independents) Democratic primary election.  Including undervotes, it is believed that less than 50% of West Virginia Democratic primary election voters voted for President Obama. Nick Rahall has gone from being “an early supporter of Barack Obama” who “campaigned with him in the hills of West Virginia” (2010 ad likely to resurface this year) to a member of the cut-run-and-hide trio.

West Virginians have an opportunity to elect not only a new president, but also a new senator, a new governor, and a new 3rd District congressman.  Today’s news indicates the incumbents fear that the voters will take this opportunity in November.

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