CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- We ask again: Why does the Mountain State, with almost two-to-one Democratic registration, vote Republican in presidential showdowns? It's illogical.
West Virginia "went red" in 2000, 2004, 2008 and now 2012. This time, the trend was even stronger: GOP aspirant Mitt Romney outstripped America's first black president in this state by an overwhelming margin: 412,000 to 235,000.
Further, Democratic Attorney General Darrell McGraw -- an icon who has won billions for the state by suing shabby business operators -- lost to a newcomer Republican lawyer, a conservative Washington lobbyist, who never stepped inside a West Virginia courtroom, as far as we know. The newcomer vows to "fight back" against federal benefits such as universal health care and pollution controls.
McGraw, who always worked for little people, was swamped by more than $1 million in special-interest money from rich Republicans, mostly out-of-state ones.
Also, two longtime progressive Democrats, Delegates Bonnie Brown and Bobbie Hatfield, were defeated in Kanawha County's new 35th District, which will be represented by three Republicans and one Democrat. Statewide, the GOP gained three state senators and 11 delegates. And a Republican neophyte was elected to the state Supreme Court.
As West Virginia swings redder, we wonder if it's following the path formerly taken by the Deep South. For decades, conservative white "Dixiecrats" kept the "Solid South" in the Democratic Party, although they shared few of its progressive beliefs. But former President Nixon employed his famed "southern strategy," making subtle appeals to racism, causing Dixie whites to switch to the GOP. Will West Virginia turn Republican, as Dixie did?
Some of this state's Democratic leaders have become half-Democrats. Sen. Joe Manchin and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin wouldn't endorse President Obama for re-election, and they skipped the Democratic National Convention to avoid being seen as loyal to the federal ticket. The state Democratic headquarters wouldn't provide Obama-Biden signs or stickers.
Amid this odd turmoil, we hope genuine Democrats make a comeback and reassert the party's compassionate ideals in this state.