AT the national level, political pundits define West Virginia as a red state because state voters have selected the Republican presidential candidate in the last four elections. West Virginians selected George Bush over Democrat Al Gore in 2000, Bush over John Kerry in 2004, and Sen. John McCain over candidate Barack Obama in 2008 and Mitt Romney over President Obama in 2012.
The former solidly Democratic state also voted for Republicans Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan in landslide victories in 1972 and 1984.
As a Saturday story in The Washington Post pointed out, Mountain State voters show that West Virginia can no longer be counted on to deliver electoral votes to the Democratic candidate for president.
Sen. Joe Manchin reflected on the change to the Post: "Generation after generation, they voted Democratic because their daddy did and their granddad . . . You can see that breaking now. You have to earn people's votes."
What a concept: candidates for public office earning the vote rather than being a shoo-in due to their party affiliation.
Democrats have been the majority party in the West Virginia House of Delegates and state Senate since the Depression era of the 1930s.
As state Republicans like to point out, that domination by the Democrats has led to West Virginia ranking 47th of the 50 states in per capita income in 2012, up from 50th in 2007. The state ranks 42nd in personal freedom and 2nd in government regulation, according to the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
It may not be fair to blame Democratic domination for ALL of the low (or high) rankings the state receives, but one-party domination for 80-plus years certainly hasn't helped.
The most recent state-wide election, in 2012, saw more Republicans in the House of Delegates, 46, than there has been in years.
It's good that West Virginia no longer solidly delivers votes for a Democratic presidential candidate. It's good that the state is represented by both parties in the U.S. House of Representatives. It's better that the state House is nearly even in Democrats and Republicans.
It will be even better when there are competitive races, between Democrat and Republican candidates, regularly at local levels across West Virginia.