Today we continue our Presidential Geography series, a one-by-one examination of the economic and demographic peculiarities that drive the politics in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Today’s stop: West Virginia, the Mountain state. FiveThirtyEight spoke with Dr. Robert Rupp, a professor of history at West Virginia Wesleyan College, and L. Christopher Plein, an associate professor of public administration at West Virginia University.
Barring a truly shocking turn of events, Mitt Romney will win West Virginia’s five electoral votes. The state is rural, culturally conservative and religious. Of the 50 states, West Virginia has the fifth highest share of gun owners, the third oldest median age and one of the least diverse and least educated populations — all variables associated with Republican Party affiliation. After decades of Democratic dominance, West Virginia voted for the Republican candidate in the last three presidential elections.
Just like Georgia, the last state profiled in this series, West Virginia has gone from solid blue to solid red on presidential electoral maps. But unlike Georgia, West Virginia still elects Democrats in statewide races. Both of West Virginia’s senators are Democrats, as is the state’s governor. Democrats claims large majorities in the State Senate and the West Virginia House of Delegates. And Democrats still maintain almost a 2-1 registration edge over Republicans in the state.
How have Democrats maintained support in such a conservative state? And does the party’s remaining strength signal that West Virginia might once again become competitive in presidential campaigns?
Part of the answer to the first question is lingering loyalty. “You can always find someone at a rally who will say, ‘I would vote Republican, but my dad would kill me,’” Mr. Rupp said. The more fundamental answer, however, is that Democratic candidates in West Virginia often bear little resemblance to national Democrats. State Democrats tend to be more conservative on a range of issues. Moreover, they emphasize their independence from the national party. Just recently, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Sen. Joe Manchin and Rep. Nick Rahall, all announced that they
You can read the rest of this article at: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/03/in-west-virginia-coal-means-more-party-less/