CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The TV ads aired so far in the West Virginia's governor's race have one thing in common: President Barack Obama.
The Republican Governors Association continues the trend with its new spot attacking the Democratic incumbent, Gov. Earl Ray Tombin. The RGA ad that debuted last week compares the federal health-care overhaul with legislation championed by Tomblin that tackles public retiree costs.
The GOP candidate, Bill Maloney, doesn't even mention Tomblin in either of his first two ads. One instead asks voters to "send a message to Obama." The other opens declaring "Barack Obama promised our children change, but the change he promised has darkened," and has Maloney pledging to "repeal Obamacare" if elected.
But Tomblin is taking on his fellow Democrat as well. His pair of ads either decries federal spending or boast of fighting the Obama administration in court over coal.
"I won't let anyone push us around," Tomblin intones in that ad.
With Obama's lack of popularity in West Virginia well documented, Tomblin's effort to separate his campaign from the president makes sense, said pollster Rex Repass. His firm's recent survey for the Charleston Daily Mail found former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney well ahead of Obama in the state. But that poll also found Tomblin leading Maloney.
"It does not appear that there is a coattail effect with Romney in the state," Repass said Friday. "There is not an alignment with Gov. Tomblin and the Obama administration, at least at this point in time."
The West Virginia Coal Association appears to agree. It endorsed Tomblin over Maloney last week, with President Bill Raney citing Tomblin's career-long support of the industry. Raney said Tomblin, a former veteran lawmaker and state Senate president, has also helped coal through tough times such as the recent market downturn.
Raney also specifically rejected repeated attempts by Republicans, including Maloney, to link Tomblin to Obama on coal issues. The industry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency remain sharply at odds over attempts to pursue water protection standards and the handling of mining-related permits. One of Tomblin's ads refers to West Virginia's lawsuit that led a federal judge to conclude in July that EPA overstepped its powers.
"There's no common ground between the Tomblin administration and the Obama administration as it regards coal," Raney said.