Local Issues Trump National Politics as Tomblin Wins in West Virginia

BY David Chalian  October 5, 2011 at 8:51 AM EDT


Photo of Earl Ray Tomblin via Facebook.

The Morning Line

All politics may not have been local in West Virginia on Tuesday, but it was local enough for Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

The Democrat, who took over as governor 11 months ago when Joe Manchin was elected to the Senate, withstood weeks of negative campaigning — and millions of dollars spent by outside Republican interests — to defeat GOP businessman Bill Maloney in Tuesday’s special gubernatorial election.

In the closing week of the campaign, the Republican Governors Association, which put $3.4 million into the race overall, went up on the air with a television ad criticizing Tomblin for not joining a multi-state legal challenge to the federal healthcare overhaul signed by President Obama. The money and the message helped close the gap, but couldn’t derail Tomblin in the end.

Tomblin also came under attack from Maloney during the campaign for supporting legislation that allegedly benefited his mother’s greyhound breeding business.

Addressing supporters at a victory rally Tuesday night in Charleston, Tomblin declared the election had offered voters in the Mountain State a clear choice. “Tonight’s result is proof that West Virginians appreciate ideas, they value experience and they want our state to continue to move forward,” Tomblin said, reports the Charleston Daily Mail’s Jared Hunt.

“This victory isn’t just about me, it’s about you and the great things we can do for our state,” he said.

After conceding the race, Maloney spoke with Lawrence Messina of the Associated Press. “We had a good message and good team, and the people of West Virginia want better than what we’ve been for the past 80 years,” Maloney said. “I think we woke them up a little bit, if we did nothing else. At least we did something here.”

In the end, Tomblin took nearly 50 percent of the vote, compared with 47 percent for Maloney, a final result that reflected the contrasting state and national political dynamics at play in the race.

Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly two-to-one in West Virginia, and Manchin won his 2010 Senate race by 10 percent over his Republican opponent. But, when it comes to presidential politics, the state has a much stronger red tint. In 2008, John McCain defeated Mr. Obama by 13 points in West Virginia, and the president’s current approval rating in the state is among his lowest.

National Democrats argued the victory sent a clear message to Republicans. “Even in the most competitive circumstances, Governor Tomblin was able to highlight his record of effectiveness and withstand Republican attempts to nationalize the race,” Democratic Governors Association chair and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said in a statement. “Ultimately, the people of West Virginia elected Governor Tomblin because they know he is best suited to create jobs and expand opportunity.”

For Democrats, a win is a win, even if the outcome was much closer than projected a few months ago; and it is much better than the alternative: a slew of Wednesday morning headlines that no doubt would have linked the president to another special election loss in an area favorable to the party’s candidate.

PERRY’S BIG $17 MILLION HAUL

The good news for Rick Perry is that there is finally good news for Rick Perry.

After weeks of playing defense on substance (Social Security, immigration) and style (three successively weak debate performances), the Perry campaign gets to boast of its splashy third quarter fundraising win with $17 million raised in just over half the three month period due to Perry’s late entry into the race on August 13.

In roughly half the amount of time Mitt Romney had to raise money, the Perry campaign’s $17 million far outpaced Romney’s expected $11 – $13 million haul.

Two important caveats:

  • A candidate’s first quarter on the fundraising circuit is the one full of all that low-hanging fruit, just sitting right there waiting to be plucked.

  • The big fundraising number does little to alter the reality or the perception of the current dynamic of the race. Political observers and practitioners alike all expected both Romney and Perry to have enough money in their coffers to go the distance in a battle for the nomination. It appears they will have the ability to do just that.

“The generous contributions from Americans across the nation prove the overwhelming support for Gov. Perry’s principled, conservative leadership and vision to get America working again,” said Perry Campaign Manager Rob Johnson.

The campaign reports that all but roughly $50,000 of the $17 million is for use in the nomination contest and they have spent little over the first two months of the young campaign. As of September 30, the campaign had $15 million in cash on hand.

Campaign fundraising reports for the third quarter, which ended on September 30, are not due to the Federal Election Commission until October 15.

MITT’S MOMENT

Your three must-reads on the post-Christie dynamic currently at play in the race for the 2012 GOP nomination:

RUBIO’S DEFENDERS

Sen. Marco Rubio’s, R-Fla., position of stature inside the Republican Party needs no further proof than his constant mention as likely vice presidential contender and future presidential candidate.

However, if you are seeking more evidence, look no farther than the five current presidential candidates promising to boycott the Univision debate scheduled for January 2012 in advance of the Florida primary.

The candidates are applying pressure to Univision in hopes the network will make amends with Rubio after it was reported over the weekend that some Univision employees sought to entice the first-term senator to sit for an interview on one of the network’s news programs in exchange for softer treatment of an unflattering story about his brother-in-law’s 24-year old drug arrest and subsequent incarceration.

Univision has called the allegations of a quid pro quo “absurd.”

The Miami Herald’s Marc Caputo has the story:

“The fact that the five candidates are standing by Rubio highlights his special status in the national Republican Party. The candidates have all said they’d like to have the 40-year-old child of Cuban immigrants as a running mate.”

“So Univision’s report on Rubio’s brother-in-law became an attack on the candidates.”

“‘This issue was brought to Michele’s attention and she has a great deal of respect for Senator Rubio,’ wrote Alice Stewart, a Bachmann spokeswoman ‘We reserve our right to participate in the Univision debate pending a positive resolution of this matter by Univision.’”

“The stance of the candidates puts them directly at odds with the most powerful name in Spanish-language media in the United States. Headquartered in Doral, Univision — whose Miami affiliate, Univision 23, is a news partner of El Nuevo Herald — boasts of top prime-time ratings in such cities as Los Angeles, San Antonio and Miami, regardless of language.”

“It reaches 95 percent of the 13.3 million Hispanic households in the United States, where Latinos are the fastest growing demographic.”

Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and Jon Huntsman have all joined the boycott in addition to Bachmann.

ON THE TRAIL

All events listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama attends to official duties in Washington. His only public appearance will be a pool spray at the top of his 3:45 p.m. meeting with the President of Honduras.

  • Mitt Romney meets with business leaders in Tallahassee, Fla., at 12:10 p.m.

  • Ron Paul speaks at a National Press Club luncheon in Washington at 12:30 p.m.

  • Newt Gingrich holds a town hall in Bluffton, S.C., at 2:30 p.m., then travels to Hilton Head for a documentary film screening at 7 p.m.

All future campaign events can be found on our Political Calendar.

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