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Despite Manchin and Tomblin, many W.Va. Dems support Obama

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Although much has been made of the indecision by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin regarding the presidential race, most West Virginia Democratic Party leaders are openly supporting President Obama for re-election in November.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said, "I've made no secret of the fact that I don't want to see Mitt Romney elected. I support our president and the entire Democratic ticket, top to bottom. We must think about what these choices mean for West Virginia and for policy and programs that West Virginia needs."

Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., and state Treasurer John Perdue also said they are backing Obama's re-election.

Perdue received a standing ovation at the Democratic Party State Convention earlier this month, when he urged delegates to support the campaign to re-elect Obama.

Perdue said he does not agree with all of Obama's policies, but added Obama has had to make some tough decisions while in the White House.

Tomblin and Manchin, D-W.Va, have not indicated whether they are supporting Obama.

Both have expressed disagreement with some of Obama's policies, particularly in the area of environmental regulations, which they say are harming the coal industry.

Bill Maloney, a Morgantown businessman who lost his race for governor against then-acting-Gov. Tomblin in the October 2011 special election, is running against Tomblin again this year. Last week, a Republican Party news release stated, "Tomblin's party-imposed deadline to make a decision in the presidential race is looming. According to his party's delegate selection plan, he has until June 19 to announce his support for Barack Obama."

Maloney said, "By the close of business on Tuesday, Earl Ray has a big decision to make."

But the Democratic Party will apparently not require delegates to the Democratic Party's National Convention to announce which candidates they support by Tuesday. Larry Puccio, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said, "Mr. Maloney is apparently not only an expert within his party, he has also become an expert with the Democratic Party."

The state Democratic Party, Puccio said, has no rules requiring delegates to indicate who they support before the National Convention convenes.

Puccio said he is interested in knowing "which Republican candidates are going to be distancing themselves from Mr. Maloney, after he made statements that he would like to do away with the U.S. Department of Education.

"Mr. Maloney also wants to stop government incentives that bring jobs to West Virginia and put our hard-working families to work. Who is going to start distancing themselves from him?"

Puccio said he personally supports the "Democratic Party ticket from top to bottom. I am very open. I support the whole ticket."

Derek Scarbro, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said, "Those rules [about which candidate delegates support] were adopted by the national party after the 2008 election, where you had multiple candidates running for president and the campaign continued into the summer."

At the time, Obama and current U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were vying for the Democratic nomination for president.

"Super delegates," who include governors and congressional incumbents, often go to national conventions automatically, without being elected in state primary elections or party caucuses.

 Scarbro said the Democratic Party's national leadership responded to the 2008 situation by "adopting rules that unpledged delegates, including super delegates, would have to indicate who they supported before the convention to get some clarity on how the election was shaping up.

"But you don't have that situation this time. You have only one candidate who has earned delegates to the national convention. So this provision is not relevant in the current situation."

Scarbro doubts the Democratic Party will seek to force any super delegates to publicly announce who they are supporting.

West Virginia will have 50 delegates and three alternates attending the convention, to be held in Charlotte, N.C., from Sept. 3-6.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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