The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

June 14, 2012

D-Day rapidly coming for Tomblin, Manchin on Obama

Time is quickly running out on a party obligation of both Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Sen. Joe Manchin to say where they stand on President Obama as unpledged delegates to the national Democratic convention this summer, Republican officials said Wednesday.

A Republican operative for Tomblin’s rival suggested the governor fears answering the issue.

In a Beckley appearance a day earlier, Tomblin again was asked if he intends to endorse the president, given both his Environmental Protection Agency’s “war on coal,” and a resolution by West Virginia Democrats in a weekend convention to support all candidates on the ticket, top to bottom.

Tomblin again was non-committal, saying only that he is looking out for the state’s best interests.

“He’s putting it off because he’s afraid to answer the question,” said Seth Wimer, campaign manager for Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Maloney.

“He needs Obama’s money from the Democratic Governors Association to win this race and that’s why he can’t admit that Obama is bad for West Virginia and should not be re-elected.”

Wimer said the Democrats’ own rules put Tomblin in a rapidly closing window to make up his mind.

Since he is governor, Tomblin is listed in the party’s delegate selection plan as unpledged, but come Tuesday, the state chairman must certify the presidential preference of the state’s unpledged delegates in writing to the national party, Wimer said.

Back in April, Manchin said many of his constituents feel the Obama years haven’t been good for the state and that he had “some real differences” with presumed GOP nominee Mitt Romney, and whether he understands the challenges of the ordinary.

Manchin also said he and many in the state are concerned about Obama on energy, particularly coal, and the need to restore order in the nation’s finances.

“Like all West Virginians, I will be watching very carefully as this race develops,” he had said. “Whoever is president, my first priority is the same — as always. I look for what’s best for West Virginia and the nation as a whole.”

As of Wednesday, he was still astride the fence on Obama.

Or, as an aide put it, when asked if Manchin would endorse the president, “The senator’s position hasn’t changed since April.”

One prominent state Democrat, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, has endorsed Obama, as has  Rep. Nick Rahall. Rahall faces state Delegate Rick Snuffer, R-Raleigh, who ran against him in an earlier campaign and lost, while Rockefeller isn’t facing re-election this year.

With the state party convention in mind, Tomblin was asked if would follow the lead of Democrats and endorse Obama, but would only say he has had his disagreements with the president’s administration. Tomblin had referred to a “war on coal” by the president in his State of the State address last winter.

“I’ve got to look at what’s best for West Virginia,” he said, reminding a reporter he has filed a lawsuit against the EPA over stalled coal mining permits.

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