Monday, September 17, 2012

West Virginia Governor Race

Race of the Day

West Virginia Governor

September 17, 2012
50 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2008 Presidential Result: Red State (South)

Outlook: Safe Democrat

Voters in the Mountaineer State may be faced with a case of deja vu at the polls in the November, as they will be deciding a rematch of a special Gubernatorial election that will have occurred just a little bit more than a year before.

When the legendary Democrat Senator Robert C. Byrd died in 2010, a special election was called for that November and the state's popular Democrat Governor Joe Manchin sought the seat and was elected. After that, Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin, the longtime President of the State Senate, took on additional duties as the state's Acting Governor but had to face the voters in 2011. After a competitive primary and an extremely close general election, Tomblin was able to remove the Acting from his title and became firmly established as his state's Governor. Now, he has to run again in West Virginia's regularly scheduled Gubernatorial contest.

While Democrats were once expected to easily maintain this office in the 2011 contest, things became extremely close down the stretch as wealthy businessman Bill Maloney, a first time candidate, started soaring in the polls, and Republicans believed they had a great chance to win a Governorship that usually goes Democrat. The party voting tradition held sway at the end though as Tomblin beat Maloney by just over two percentage points.

Despite some disappointment over losing a close race, and longer odds, Maloney decided to run again for Governor, and both he and Tomblin captured their respective parties nominations in a manner far easier than they had months earlier. Republicans are expected to dominate the state at the Presidential level and should hold two out of the state's three House seats, but this conservative lean is not expected to be nearly enough to threaten Tomblin or Manchin as both seek full terms. Running on a ticket with Barack Obama in West Virginia is not a positive for Tomblin, but Democrat politicians in the state have gone to great lengths to avoid appearing too close to Obama or the national party. As Governor, Tomblin has been very critical of the Obama Administration on issues such as coal and energy and made it a point to say he would not be endorsing the incumbent President of his own party for reelection.

On the GOP side, Maloney is more than a credible candidate, but he lost any real momentum he had after missing his chance at a 2011 special election upset. Voters in the state still prefer Democrats for most state and local offices and seem content to give more time to Tomblin, who holds wide leads in the polls and should easily win a full four year term, regardless of the unpopularity of the person leading the national ticket on his side.

Maloney campaign link:

Total 2012 Gubernatorial races predicted: 5 D, 6 R
Predicted Gubernatorial totals: 17 D, 1 I, 32 R