The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

May 9, 2012

GOP voters back Romney

Democrats send Obama message that he’s still wildly unpopular in state

CHARLESTON — Republican voters in West Virginia backed presumed presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Tuesday, while Democrats sent President Obama a message that he’s still wildly unpopular in the Mountain State.

The primary also featured congressional incumbents who were either unopposed or won easily against poorly funded opponents. Voters also selected 28 delegates to August’s Republican national convention in Tampa.

With about 83 percent of precincts reporting, Romney had 70 percent of the vote. Rick Santorum, who dropped out of the race last month and endorsed the former Massachusetts governor this week, followed with 12 percent.

The loudest message of the night went to Obama. The president’s only primary opponent, Keith Russell Judd, picked up four out of every 10 votes cast despite being incarcerated at the Beaumont Federal Correctional Institution in Texas for making threats at the University of New Mexico in 1999.

The results were further evidence of West Virginia’s dislike of Obama, where his economic and environmental policies have made him extremely unpopular. Obama lost the 2008 primary here to Hillary Clinton, and then the general election to Republican John McCain. Polls show him with among his worst approval ratings in West Virginia.

For some West Virginia Democrats, running against Obama was enough to get Judd votes.

“I voted against Obama,” said Ronnie Brown, a 43-year-old electrician from Cross Lanes who called himself a conservative Democrat. “I don’t like him. He didn’t carry the state before and I’m not going to let him carry it again.”

Come November, though, Brown doesn’t see himself supporting either Obama or presumptive Romney.

“I don’t like neither one of them, to be honest,” Brown said. “I’ll probably leave that blank unless somebody comes in.”

Judd was able to get on the state ballot by paying a $2,500 filing fee and filing a form known as a notarized certification of announcement, said Jake Glance, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office. If Judd receives 15 percent of the state vote he will qualify to receive delegates to the national Democratic convention. But state Democratic Party Executive Director Derek Scarbro said no one has filed to be a delegate for Judd, and the state party was unaware that Judd has actually filed the required paperwork.

Still, some said they’d like to see Obama carry the state this fall.

Adam Polinski of Morgantown, who is self-employed and currently renovating a house, said Obama would have more support if voters could get beyond the hot-button issues.

“A politician has choices to make every day,” he said. “Hot-button issues are going to be coal-related and hunting-related for starters. But it’s a big, broad job and there are a lot of choices to be made, so I hope everybody looks at the big picture.”

Wanda Goodwin, 61, executive director of the state Board of Veterinary Medicine, calls herself a Republican who sometimes sides with Democrats. She voted for Romney.

“I think he is a good businessman,” she said. “I think he shows he’s able to handle things under pressure. What he lacks in personality — personality’s important — but as long as you have good people around you and you’re a good leader, I think that’s the important thing.”

U.S. Senate Joe Manchin defeated Democratic primary challenger Sheirl Fletcher, a former Republican and ex-legislator. That sets up a rematch against Republican John Raese, who was unopposed. Raese lost to Manchin in the 2010 special election that followed the death of Robert C. Byrd. The seat is now up for a full six-year term.

Manchin, who refused to say whether he voted for Obama on Tuesday, said he’s grateful that most voters look at the totality of his voting record, not whether he follows the party line.

“The people of West Virginia have been very, very keen in coming to the conclusion of who they’re going to vote for, and they’ll do it again,” the two-term former governor said. “I think everyone knows I’m just West Virginia Joe. I don’t just say what they want me to say. ... I’m going to speak out when it doesn’t make sense. And if something does make sense, I don’t care whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat, I’m going to vote for it.”

Manchin said he’s ready for the rematch with Raese, predicting “a good campaign and a tough race.”

James Biser, 64, is a retired painter from Morgantown and a former Republican who says he’s “a Democrat at the present time.” He said he grew up with Raese, so he didn’t vote for Manchin. He’ll be watching how that race plays out in the coming months before backing either candidate.

“I hate to take and flip a coin,” he said, “but it’s happened before.”

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito overcame two opponents, state Delegate Jonathan Miller and Michael Davis, in the GOP primary for the 2nd Congressional District. She’ll face Howard Swint, who bested William McCann and Dugald Brown in the district’s Democratic primary.

Swint said he’s “profoundly grateful” for voters’ confidence and eager to hit the campaign trail, saying West Virginians will have a real choice in November.

Republicans in the 3rd District chose Delegate Rick Snuffer to take on Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall in November. Snuffer defeated Lee Bias and Bill Lester in the primary race.

Both Rahall and 1st District freshman Rep. David McKinley, a Republican, were unopposed Tuesday. Democrat Sue Thorn was similarly assured her party’s nod as she seeks to take on McKinley.

The GOP national convention delegates include three from each congressional district and 19 at-large. More than 190 Republicans filed for these slots.

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