WHEELING - West Virginia Democrats cast more ballots for U.S. Senate and governor this week than for president.
Statewide results show about 20,000 state Democrats apparently skipped over the presidential race when voting in Tuesday's primary election. Figures from the West Virginia Secretary of State's Office indicate 133,591 votes were cast in the Democratic primary for president between Barack Obama and Keith Judd.
A race for the Democratic nomination to U.S. Senate, meanwhile, saw 153,627 ballots marked in the race between Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sheirl Fletcher; and 151,039 in the Democratic primary for governor between Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Arnie Moltis.
"This is another bad sign for Obama - it means (about) 20,000 West Virginians didn't want to vote for president," said Robert Rupp, professor of history and political science at West Virginia Wesleyan College. " Undervotes are usually at the bottom of the ticket, this was at the top"
He speculates many of these voters knew the challenger Judd was a convict, and didn't want to vote for him. Rupp noted Judd also carried the vote in 10 southern West Virginia coal counties. He suspects voters there might stay home from the polls in November, and that this could affect state legislative contests.
"When looking at raw data, there are a lot of different inferences that can be drawn," said Rocky Fitzsimmons, co-chairman of the Ohio County Democratic Party. "This is one of the states where (Obama) is least popular, and that could be attributable, as well as anything else."
To compare with Democratic results, the number of Republicans voting for president in the GOP primary was greater than for governor.
A total of 84,263 state Republicans voted for president in a contested primary race that included Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Charles "Buddy" Roemer.
The GOP race for governor between Bill Maloney and Ralph Clark, meanwhile, saw 77,825 vote.
Republican John Raese ran unopposed for the GOP nomination to U.S. Senate, and received 65,738 votes. The disparity in the number of votes cast for offices on the Democratic ticket also holds up locally:
Across the state, Tomblin was the contested candidate who received the most votes among Democratic voters, capturing 128,374 for governor. Manchin had 124,875 in his race for Senate; and Obama, 76,510 for president.
A number of incumbent officeholders in West Virginia ran unopposed in the Democratic primary election but garnered strong affirmation votes.
Secretary of State Natalie Tennant received 127,575 votes; Attorney General Darrell McGraw, 125,496; Treasurer John Perdue, 120,385; and Auditor Glen Gainer, 118,134.