On Monday, three West Virginia Democratic leaders—Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Sen. Joe Manchin, and Rep. Nick Rahall—announced that they would be skipping the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this September. Today, Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Mark Critz joined the group.
All four politicians come from districts where Barack Obama is deeply unpopular, and they seem to be making a concerted effort to distance themselves from the president. Both Manchin and Tomblin have refused to indicate whether they will support Obama, stating that they don’t know if they’ll vote for him in the fall. There are obvious political reasons for their hesitance; after all, in the presidential primary, 40 percent of Democratic voters supported a federal prison inmate over the Commander in Chief.
In Critz’s case, he represents a socially conservative district where an internal poll showed that Obama was down double digits to Romney.
While all four have made excuses along the lines of “focusing on the local voters,” their decisions to dodge the convention have raised criticism from both parties.
When asked if the decision to skip the convention would earn a toned-down treatment from the GOP, West Virginia GOP Executive Director Chad Holland responded:
The fact that they’re running and hiding from the Democrat convention when everybody knows that the only reason they’re doing it is so they don’t have to answer the question yet of who they support for president shows a profound lack of leadership. West Virginia has serious problems and it needs serious men and women to resolve these problems. And if you can’t step up and say you support for president, I don’t know how we can trust you to solve the problems facing fellow West Virginians.
Furthermore, during the Democratic convention in Charleston, West Virginia, one delegate called Manchin and Tomblin’s behavior “reprehensible,” while another said that she wouldn’t support the two men if they wouldn’t support Obama.
While it’s already presumed that Obama will not win West Virginia, Critz’s decision to stay away from the convention could be a sign of trouble in the battleground state of Pennsylvania—a state that supported the president in 2008, but where Obama seriously underperformed in this year’s primary.