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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

GOP's Special Election Momentum Halted in W. Va.

Brad Davis/Associated Press

After sufferring a double defeat in two special elections last month, Democrats were reeling at the prospect of being on the losing end of another huge special election upset. In West Virginia, a state so weird that it holds a special election for governor (1) in October and (2) to fill a seat that will be up for election again next November, even though the lieutenant governor has already succeeded to the office, the Dems were in panic mode once again after watching their candidate's double-digit lead disappear over the past few weeks. So naturally, political hangers-on in both parties were on pins and needles in advance of the first (and only close) gubernatorial race of 2011. As the returns rolled in last night, Democrats could breathe a sigh of relief once it became clear that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) held an insurmountable lead over his Republican opponent, businessman Bill Maloney. With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Tomblin had 50% of the vote compared to Maloney's 47%.

Low voter turnout may have helped Tomblin. It appears that less than 400,000 people voted in this election. By comparison, 530,000 West Virginians cast ballots in last year's special election to finish out the term of the late U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd (D), and over 700,000 went to the polls to vote in the last presidential election. What is clear, though, is that Democrats now have broken the GOP's special election winning streak with a victory in big statewide race. Republicans, meanwhile, should be proud that they made a close race out of something that really shouldn't have been and probably weakened Tomblin for next year's election, when he will likely run for a full term.

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