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Tomblin says he's uncertain whether he'll vote for Obama

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Democrat Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said he - like Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. - does not know if he will vote for President Barack Obama or Republican Mitt Romney in the fall.

"I do not believe that either candidate has a real understanding of what is important to West Virginia," Tomblin said Tuesday.

Tomblin said in statement released by his campaign that he was a "loyal member of the Democratic Party" but was concerned by fellow Democrat Obama's "misguided policies."

Still, Tomblin is also worried about Republican measures backed by Romney that could affect Medicare and Social Security, two programs crucial to West Virginia's 300,000 residents 65 and older.

Tomblin said Romney is supporting policies that would "end Medicare and Social Security as we know it."

"His policies will put more burdens on West Virginia families who are simply trying to make ends meet," Tomblin said.

There's also a "but."

"On the other hand, President Obama has apparently made it his mission to drive the backbone of West Virginia's economy, coal and the energy industry, out of business," he said. "That will not only hurt thousands of West Virginia families, it will destroy the economic fabric of our state."

Tomblin is not alone in his indecision.

Manchin, who is by far the state's most popular politician, said late last month that he did not know whether he would vote for Obama or for Romney.

"I am just waiting for it to play out. I am not jumping in one way or another," Manchin told the National Journal. "I'm worried about me. I've said it's not a team sport. You need to go out and work for yourself."

The remark drew ire from some Democrats. It cost Manchin the endorsement of the state's largest left-leaning newspaper editorial board and caused Manchin to pen an op-ed defending his bona fides as a "West Virginia Democrat," a breed of Democrats supposedly different from members of the Democratic Party in other states or in Congress.

It's not clear yet what the reaction will be from state Democrats to Tomblin's similar remarks.

After Manchin's remarks to the National Journal, Obama chief political adviser David Axelrod told CNN Manchin was concerned chiefly with his own political well-being.

"It's going to be a tough state for us again, and he's making a political judgment about himself," Axelrod said. "I would hope that the country's interests will enter into it as well, and that ultimately he will be supporting the president."

Obama is expected to do poorly in West Virginia.

The chief policy albatrosses from the Obama White House for West Virginia Democrats are environmental regulations targeting the coal industry, particularly regulations to curb mountaintop removal mining and emissions from coal-fired power plants. There is also the national health care reform law, which publicly available polling has found to be unpopular in the state.

Tomblin and Manchin have both stridently objected to the environmental regulations, although Tomblin has not taken up Republican Bill Maloney's challenge and called for the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to resign.

On health care, both men have hedged their bets.

The big question for the fall for both Manchin and Tomblin is whether Republicans can use Obama against either of them. So far, it hasn't worked to defeat either Manchin or Tomblin, and both men are facing Republicans they have previously defeated.

John Raese, Manchin's Republican challenger this year, failed to defeat Manchin using Obama in the special 2010 Senate election. Maloney also failed to defeat Tomblin by tying him to Obama in 2011's special gubernatorial election, although that election was decided by fewer than 8,000 votes.

Contact writer Ry Rivard at or 304-348-1796. Follow him at



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