The governor's race in West Virginia between Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin and GOP businessman Bill Maloney was razor close with Tomblin eking out a 50-47 victory in a state with a 2-1 registration edge to the Democrats.
West Virginia also has one of the only improving economies in the nation, with unemployment below the national average, a balanced budget, and modest tax cuts in the last year.
But the GOP strategy of tying Obama to Tomblin almost brought off a huge upset. CBS News:
An unknown before entering the race, Maloney had stumped on his record as a successful businessman and employer. The 53-year-old Morgantown drilling engineer and millionaire also played a role in developing the rescue plan that freed the 33 trapped Chilean miners last year.
But his campaign, and GOP-funded ads, began invoking Obama in late August. With the president seeking a second term in 2012, Republicans had angled for an outcome similar to last month's upset in a New York City special congressional election. Obama's favorability loomed large in that contest.
One anti-Tomblin ad featured images of the president floating on the screen with the fellow Democrat. It asked: "What's Gov. Tomblin doing about Obamacare? Absolutely nothing."
Maloney also attacked Tomblin for voting as a legislator on measures they alleged benefited his mother's greyhound breeding business. He seized on West Virginia's still-dismal rankings in such key areas as income and educational attainment, questioning Tomblin's effectiveness despite 36 years in state government.
"We had a good message and good team, and the people of West Virginia want better than what we've been for the past 80 years," Maloney told AP after conceding the race. "I think we woke them up a little bit, if we did nothing else. At least we did something here."
This race should be a wake up call for some Republicans. If they think they can coast to victory by simply tying their opponent to Obama, I hope they realize it's going to take considerably more to win in November 2012. "All politics is local," said the crusty former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill. It may be advantageous to remind voters of Obama's party affiliation, but they also want solutions to real problems in their own backyard.
GOP candidates will ignore that at their peril.