CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia voters on Tuesday re-elected U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, both Democrats, even as they rejected President Barack Obama's bid for a second term and considered a lengthy ballot that also features a slew of legislative posts and a proposed constitutional amendment.
Though registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 2-1 in West Virginia, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney easily won the five electoral votes in the state where Obama suffers some of his lowest approval ratings. Still, Romney lost the overall race.
In other races, Republican candidates worked to link Democratic incumbents to the unpopular president. They also threatened the Democrats' majority in the House of Delegates.
Republican John Raese made Obama a big part of his campaign against Manchin for a full six-year term in the Senate. Manchin was governor when he defeated Raese, a Morgantown multimillionaire and industrialist, in a 2010 special election prompted by the death of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.
Manchin said whoever wins the presidency must work to unite the nation. He proposed a 50-state healing tour, inviting the winner to come to West Virginia first.
"I'm just so committed to that. We just need to reach out," Manchin told The Associated Press. "Forget about our party politics. Start thinking about our future."
Tomblin's GOP opponent, Bill Maloney, also invoked Obama while blaming the incumbent for the state's chronically poor rankings in economic and education categories. Their race marked another rematch. Tomblin was Senate president acting as governor following Manchin's departure when he narrowly beat Maloney in a special election last October.
In the bitterly fought governor's race, Tomblin cited how the state weathered the Great Recession and fragile recovery under his leadership. Maloney, a Morgantown drilling consultant and business owner, accused Tomblin of prospering at taxpayer expense.
"The people of West Virginia appreciate the experience, the fiscal responsibility that we've shown, the good financial planning," Tomblin told The Associated Press. "We plan to continue to move forward along that same path and to continue to be responsible with the taxpayers' dollars."
Though parts of the state are still recovering from the punishing snows and power outages inflicted by Superstorm Sandy, the sun was shining Tuesday and voters appeared undeterred in Preston County, one of the hardest-hit.
At the Bolyard Funeral Home in Newburg, designated an emergency polling place, Cheryl Engle was ready to clean house at the top of the ballot. She voted for Romney, Raese and Maloney.
"I want Obama out," said Engle, 59, of nearby Independence. "He's just not taking us in the right direction."
The GOP's Obama strategy also extended to other races, including the one for attorney general. Republican Patrick Morrisey, an Eastern Panhandle lawyer who previously worked on Capitol Hill, denied Attorney General Darrell McGraw a sixth term. The Democrat has found himself outspent by Morrisey and pro-GOP allies who have flooded the state with TV ads.
Democrats held onto the other four statewide executive offices. Treasurer John Perdue bested Mike Hall, the Senate's minority leader. Freshman Delegate Brian Savilla, like Hall a Putnam County Republican, was soundly defeated by Secretary of State Natalie Tennant in her quest for a second term. Larry Faircloth, a former veteran GOP legislator, similarly fell short against Auditor Glen Gainer.