In 1996, President Bill Clinton carried West Virginia with 327,812 votes over Republican Bob Dole's 233,946. Yet, the state elected Cecil Underwood as governor, with 324,518 votes to Charlotte Pritt's 287,870.
(A Republican can win the governor's race only if the Democratic nominee is regarded as seriously flawed in the eyes of the voters. In 1996, Pritt was seen as too liberal, too unpredictable and, perhaps, too female ... a woman had yet to be elected to statewide office at that point. Many mainstream [read: conservative] Democrats actively campaigned against her, in part because Pritt had effectively told them to go fish.)
In 2000, the state went with George W. Bush
over Al Gore
by nearly 41,000 votes, while Bob Wise
was able to unseat Underwood by a nearly 20,000-vote margin.
In 2004, the state went with Bush again, who crushed John Kerry by more than 97,000 votes. However, in the governor's race, Joe Manchin had an even more impressive margin of victory over Monty Warner by nearly 220,000 votes.
In 2008, West Virginia cast only 303,857 votes for Obama (second-lowest vote total for a Democrat during the time-span to Gore's 295,497). Manchin, meanwhile, gained nearly 20,000 votes over his 2004 vote total, besting little-known Russ Weeks by a 492,697 to 181,612 margin.
In the 2012 gubernatorial race, challenger Bill Maloney's platform appears to consist of two issues: 1. Promoting small business, and 2. ObamaObamaObama.
Even Holly would have known, that dog won't hunt.
Finally, in reading Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's eloquent tribute to Coach Bill Stewart, in which he said Stewart left no doubt that he was a "gentleman of uncommon decency and honor and warmth," I recalled a conversation with a friend from New Jersey early in Stewart's tenure.
The friend didn't care for Stewart's aw-shucks demeanor or sideline persona, or the cornpone colloquialisms that he worked into interviews. In fact, my friend was early on the bandwagon calling for a new coach.
My response: The thing is, Coach Stew epitomizes all the best qualities of West Virginians. He's loyal, honest, generous, friendly, polite, and he truly loves his state and the university. I said I'd rather have an eight- or nine-win season with Stewart than go to the national championship under Rich Rodriguez.
While I think WVU ultimately made the right decisions, it's unfortunate that Stewart was denied a second act, or the opportunity to see how much Mountaineer nation cared for him, and appreciated all that he had done.
Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.