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Manchin, Tomblin, Rahall to skip DNC

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Sen. Joe Manchin and Rep. Nick Rahall plan to skip the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., this summer.

The trio of West Virginia Democrats will not be part of the state delegation that will formally vote to renominate President Obama, according to a convention delegation list released Monday afternoon.

The decision to stay home comes amid pressure from state GOP leaders who have called on the Democratic incumbents to declare whether they support Obama. All three Democrats face re-election battles.

Manchin and Tomblin in particular have sought to distance themselves from the president, who is highly unpopular in West Virginia. In the state's May 8 Democratic presidential primary, federal inmate Keith Judd won more than 40 percent of the vote against Obama.

In recent weeks, Manchin and Tomblin have refused to say whether they would vote for Obama.

"Earl Ray's and Manchin's decision to run and hide rather than attend the Democratic National Convention shows a profound lack of leadership," state GOP Chairman Conrad Lucas said Monday.

Tomblin, Manchin and Rahall said they would prefer to spend their time in West Virginia during the four-day convention in September.

"I intend to spend this fall focused on the people of West Virginia, whether that's representing them in my official duties or here at home, where I can hear about their concerns and ideas to solve the problems of this great nation," Manchin said. "I will remain focused on bringing people together for the next generation, not the next election."

Tomblin also has evaded questions about whether he would vote for Obama.

On Monday, Tomblin's camp said the governor has "serious problems" with both President Obama and Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Tomblin opposes Obama's so-called "war on coal," and Romney's proposals to overhaul Social Security.

"The governor [Tomblin] feels that his time is best spent working in West Virginia to move our state forward instead of attending a four-day political rally in North Carolina," said Chris Stadelman, a Tomblin campaign spokesman.

Rahall has said he would support President Obama's re-election, but the Democratic congressman also has criticized the president on some issues. Last week, Rahall said Obama was "as wrong as he can be" on a proposed immigration plan that would stop the deportation of children of illegal immigrants.

In a statement Monday, Rahall's camp said the congressman's decision to skip the Democratic National Convention was more about timing.

"Coming on the heels of Labor Day, Congressman Rahall prefers to spend time in West Virginia with his constituents," said Aaron Pritchard, a Rahall campaign spokesman.

Rahall's Republican opponent, Rick Snuffer, has made no secret about his plan to defeat Rahall by linking the longtime congressman to Obama. Snuffer's campaign repeated that tactic Monday.

"For [Rahall] to try to paper over his support for the president by skipping the Democratic National Convention is extremely disingenuous," said Andy Sere, a Snuffer campaign strategist. "It's good [Rahall] is spending more time in West Virginia because he has a lot of explaining to do in regard to his support for the president and his policies."

State GOP leaders said the three West Virginia Democrats ought to come clean about their refusal to attend the party's convention in North Carolina.

"We all know the only reason they're refusing to attend the Democratic National Convention is they're afraid to tell the people of West Virginia who they support for president," Lucas said in a prepared statement. "Any attempt to suggest otherwise is political spin aimed at purposefully misleading the voters."

In recent weeks, the GOP has put out a series of releases, pressing Manchin and Tomblin to disclose whether they plan to vote for Obama.

Lucas has said that state Democratic Party rules require the state party chairman to certify the presidential preference of all West Virginia delegates.

Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio countered that the party wasn't bound by any such requirement because Obama faces no substantial opposition for the nomination. Manchin, Tomblin and Rahall are automatic delegates -- also known as "super-delegates" -- to the convention.

"November is still coming, and the voters of this state are entitled to know who their leaders support for president, regardless of how much Tomblin and Manchin are committed to keeping the truth hidden," Lucas said Monday.

Bill Maloney, a Morgantown businessman, is running on the Republican ticket against Tomblin. Republican candidate John Raese faces Manchin.

A recent poll has shown Romney with a 17-point lead over Obama in West Virginia.

Obama lost West Virginia's 2008 presidential general election to Republican candidate John McCain. Obama also lost that year's state Democratic primary to Hillary Clinton, who now serves as Obama's secretary of state.

The Democratic National Convention is set for the week of Sept. 3. 

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, also D-W.Va., will attend the convention, the state party said Monday.

Puccio released the state's convention delegation list in accordance with party rules.

Reach Eric Eyre at ericeyre@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.


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