EDITORIAL: Core Activists Will Choose Next Governor

EDITORIAL:  Core Activists Will Choose Next Governor
Charleston Gazette Statehouse reporter/columnist Phil Kabler has declared that former Secretary of State Betty Ireland is the most likely candidate to win the upcoming GOP Primary for Governor. 

Citing Ireland's single term as the state's chief elections officer, Kabler believes that this statewide exposure gives Ireland a leg up on the other GOP candidates who have declared an interest in running for Governor, namely 15th District State Senator Clark Barnes and Putnam County Prosecutor Mark Sorsaia.

First of all, any Republican candidate who is the favorite of the liberal Charleston Gazette doesn't want Kabler's analysis to get out very far among the conservative base of the West Virginia GOP.  Kabler's "endorsement" could be the kiss of death for Ireland among many in the Republican ranks.  What's next? Will the AFL-CIO be telling us that Ireland is their choice, too?  Come on.

More importantly, Kabler has forgotten just what kind of election this will be in 2011.  This time, the two parties' nominees will be participating in a true Special Election and in an off-election year.  No other races will be on the ballot, and the contest will be held on an unfamiliar date in early October, not the first Tuesday in November.  All this will guarantee a low voter turnout, lower than last year's in all probability.

This means that the two parties' core activists will decide this election like none other.  Only the hardcore activists on the left and the right will be coming out to vote, along with their friends.  As one political observer in the Eastern Panhandle noted this past week, "It's going to be the Tea Party activists vs. the Labor Democrats this time."

So who will the two parties put up for their nominees then?  Clearly, each party will fare better at the polls in November if they nominate the individual who can best inspire their core activists to get out the vote.

To be fair, the Gazette's Kabler is a keen observer of the statehouse scene. However, if he thinks that Betty Ireland is the darling of the conservative activists in her Republican Party, he needs to do a little more field reporting.  Among GOP party activists, Ireland is essentially perceived as a moderate and in some ways a liberal.

For example, she enjoyed touting her gender as a main reason to support her in times past.  That's not something Margaret Thatcher--a female leader conservatives love--ever needed to do.

Ireland might be the smart choice if reaching out for moderates in both parties was the most crucial part of an election strategy, but that's just not the priority this year.  This election belongs to the party's nominee who can rev up their base more than the other party's nominee.

For example, what if House Speaker Rick Thompson, a true Labor leader, is the nominee for the Democrats?

Only a Republican nominee who can truly inspire enough Tea Partiers and other conservatives to turn out in even larger numbers than Thompson's Labor folks will be able to win.

The West Virginia Republican Party has a golden opportunity this year to capture the Governor's Mansion, given the disarray on the other side of the aisle.  But they still need to put forward the kind of nominee that their party's conservatives will beat the bushes for and defend to their friends.
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