CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Discussing the voter lethargy surrounding the 2012 election, West Virginia Wesleyan political science professor Robert Rupp remarked that you'd probably have to go back a long ways to find the last time the most interesting statewide race was for state Supreme Court.
Voter disinterest this election cycle isn't that hard to explain. In fact, there are several likely reasons:
* Voter fatigue. Going into the seventh election cycle in the past three years, voters are burnt out with the near-constant campaigning.
* Rematches. There's a reason organizers of NCAA bowl games try to avoid rematches of regular-season games, since fans aren't as interested to watch teams they've already seen play each other.
This year, two major statewide races are rematches: Manchin-Raese for U.S. Senate (from the 2010 special election) and Tomblin-Maloney for governor (from a special election less than a year ago.)
So far, neither opponent has made a compelling case to voters to change their votes from just a year or two ago, which probably explains why national pundits have both races as "safe Democrat."
* Negativity and nonsense. It's probably not worth complaining these days that campaigns have largely devolved from efforts to determine which candidate is best qualified and can best serve the state, into competitions to which candidate (and allies) can sling the most mud at his or her opponent.
In recent days, the campaigns may not have done much to inform us about who are best candidates for each office, but they've shown us:
* Just how long it takes a video "tracker" to goad Attorney General Darrell McGraw into losing his temper. (Answer: about 3 minutes, 51 seconds.)
* That both the Republican Governors Association and Democratic Governors Association political action committees can distort facts well beyond recognition in their campaign spots. (Although the DGA has a long way to catch up when it comes to distorting reality -- but with Politico reporting Friday they've reserved $2.6 million of air-time for anti-Bill Maloney
* Most ludicrously, that 8th District Senate candidate Josh Martin, back in his college days, was a wrestler in a third-rate pro wrestling circuit, portraying a "bad guy" given to making some rather nasty narcissistic and misogynistic statements to rile up the "crowds."