Noted political historian and West Virginia Wesleyan College professor Dr. Robert Rupp sees the state trending toward the Republican Party, but told the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce Monday that he doesn't foresee any member of that party ousting the Democratic incumbent.
Rupp said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin have been able to distance themselves from President Barack Obama, though their challengers have desperately tried to tie them into the national scene.
"You have to be in tune with West Virginia and not the national party," he said. "That's why (John) Raese and (Bill) Maloney aren't going to win. Eighty percent of the money coming in from the outside is wasted because they don't know who we are."
The Inter-Mountain photo by John Wickline
West Virginia Wesleyan College professor Dr. Robert Rupp foresees West Virginia voters continuing their trend of sending ‘Republicans or so-called Republicans to Washington and Democrats to Charleston.’ But he predicted victories for incumbent Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Sen. Joe Manchin.
Rupp called the presidential race a toss-up, saying it ultimately will be determined by about 100,000 people scattered throughout seven states. He said that group in West Virginia could include married women living along the Interstate 79 corridor.
"She sees all that technology along I-79 and is worrying about her kids staying in West Virginia," Rupp said.
The Democrats, he said, have basically conceded the state to Republican candidate Mitt Romney. He illustrated this by saying Obama and Romney combined to spend $700,000 in New Hampshire, compared to a mere $7,000 in West Virginia.
"Which is basically saying, 'Goodbye. It's decided,'" he said.
More than 90 percent of the campaign ads have been of the negative attack variety, Rupp said, giving voters no clues as to what they believe are solutions to the problems facing America.
"They're not telling you to vote for me. They're telling you not to vote for the other person," he said. "History will write that this election was about refusing to deal with unfunded debt."
Closer to home, Rupp said, West Virginia should continue its trend of "sending Republicans or so-called Republicans to Washington and Democrats to Charleston.
"But the idea of straight-ticket voting has drastically dropped," he said. "The days of union turnout determining the election are over. The southern counties are losing their clout."
Tomblin was the first governor from a southern county elected since 1964, which Rupp believes is more the exception than the rule. He said the state is moving in a north-easterly direction, citing population shifts from the Charleston-Huntington area to Morgantown and Martinsburg.
But a disturbing trend to this long-time political observer is the disconnect of today's youth toward politics. He said about 90 million people will not vote in this election, and he has seen about a 30 percent spike among his students toward Libertarian leanings.
"They're saying, 'I don't want anybody, anywhere at any time,'" he said. "We are seeing a generational shift. The days of Robert C. Byrd are over."