On Tuesday, Maloney stood "toe to toe with the best the Democrats had to offer," Stuart said.
"This night may have ended in a loss, but we are not defeated," Stuart said in a statement. "I am reminded of the famous 'Bum' Phillips [former NFL coach] quote: 'Last year, we knocked on the door. This year we beat on it. Next year, we're going to kick it in.' "
In a campaign notable for its attack ads on both sides, Maloney and the electioneering arm of the Republican Governors Association portrayed Tomblin, first elected to the Legislature in 1974, as a career politician committed to benefiting himself and family members.
For much of the campaign, Maloney and the RGA made issue of Tomblin votes in the early 1990s to increase greyhound racing purses for dogs bred in West Virginia, contending that Tomblin had "directed" greyhound funds to his mother and brother, who are greyhound breeders.
Tomblin and the electioneering arm of the Democratic Governors' Association depicted Maloney as a millionaire businessman out-of-touch with average West Virginians, who supported policies that, they said, would discourage business investments in the state, and would cut funding for public schools. The DGA spent more than $2 million on its own attack ads.
In the closing days of the election, the RGA launched an ad attempting to tie Tomblin to Obama, contending that the administration's failure to join other states in suing to overturn Obama's health reform plan amounted to support for the president.
With no other seriously contested gubernatorial races this year, the RGA and DGA combined to pour nearly $6 million of independent expenditures into the election, far outpacing the candidates' own campaign spending, and turning the race on a national level into a referendum on Obama.
Over the weekend, the RGA bought more than $600,000 of air time on Washington, D.C., TV stations to broadcast the anti-Obama ad -- a move that Politico's David Cantanese suggested was aimed as much at the White House as it was at reaching voters in the Eastern Panhandle.
The Tomblin campaign never directly countered the Obama ad, but did launch a late-campaign ad featuring Manchin -- the most popular politician in the state, according to Public Policy Polling -- endorsing Tomblin as "the right man to keep West Virginia on the right course."
According to the PPP poll released Monday, Manchin had a 61 percent approval rating among state voters, compared to Obama's 28 percent approval rating.
Otherwise, Tomblin touted his ability to lead the state, noting that he had helped craft fiscal policies that allowed West Virginia to be one of a handful of states to come through the recession with a budget surplus, while lowering taxes on businesses and consumers, making the state more attractive for business investments.
Maloney countered that the state remains ranked low in most economic rankings, and pledged reforms of the judicial system and tax code intended to make West Virginia business friendly.
Maloney, a Morgantown businessman who established a successful mine drilling company, said he would bring his business acumen to shake up politics as usual in Charleston.
Tomblin picked up virtually all major endorsements by state and national organizations, including business and labor groups, and most state newspapers. Maloney's campaign downplayed the endorsements, saying they represented special interests that would benefit from maintaining the status quo.
Staff writer Eric Eyre contributed to this article. Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 30-4-348-1220.