EDITORIAL: Oliverio's Exit a Victory for McKinley--and an Opportunity for WV GOP

HNN Staff
Rep. David McKinley
Rep. David McKinley

The unexpected exit of Democrat Mike Oliverio from a rematch with Republican Congressman David McKinley has reverberated across Mountain State political circles over the last 24 hours.  While McKinley's energy and voting record would have made it difficult for Oliverio in 2012, their last outing together in 2010 was a close race, with about 100 votes separating them in the end.  So what changed Oliverio's mind?  And what does this mean for West Virginia politics?

Theories will abound, but one thing we know for sure is that Oliverio's decision was not primarily what he threw out on his Facebook page on Friday.  Oliverio stated that it would be best for his family if he not run. 

The public grows very weary at this well-worn excuse, made to make the exiting politician appear noble as a family man.  No doubt Oliverio's young family will indeed benefit from their husband and father not having to run a bruising campaign for nine months for the second time in three years.  But were they not the same family Oliverio had back in September when he announced his intentions to run again?  Of course they were.  So that's not the main reason at all.

Money is the mother's milk of politics, and clearly, McKinley had done a credible job as Congressman to soak up much of the available donor support across his district.   Unless Oliverio wanted to mortgage his home, he was going to have a difficult time keeping up with an incumbent Congressman's ability to raise funds. 

But there was a second punch to Oliverio's Congressional hopes at play, namely that the head of his ticket, President Obama, is at only 43% job approval nationally and lower than that in West Virginia.  In fact, West Virginia may be the state that dislikes Obama the most, with his administration's EPA putting our coal industry (with its thousands of jobs) out of business.

In 2008, a far better year for Barack Obama's popularity nationally, he still lost in West Virginia--twice.  Obama lost badly to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary and again to John McCain in the general.  What can Barack Obama and the entire Democratic ticket look forward to in 2012 after three years of joblessness, bailouts, and a foreign policy that seems rudderless?

So perhaps Oliverio, a moderate Democrat, just finally woke up this week and saw the handwriting on the wall:  McKinley's hard work and sound voting record, little donor support for another Oliverio run, and a disastrous head of the ticket for all Democrats in 2012.

Oliverio has served his state in the legislature for several years.   Politically speaking, he is still young enough to rebuild his political career.  However, he needs to entertain some new thinking.  Let's face it:  in the 21st Century, moderate to conservative Democrats simply have been abandoned by their national party. They are unwanted.

But the Republican Party, especially the WV GOP, would greatly enjoy seeing their registration numbers swell with the number of such Democrats who, by and large, have much more in common on the issues with Republicans than liberal Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama.

We think Mike Oliverio could be the kind of public figure that could make other Democrats realize that their true political home is now the West Virginia Republican Party.  Moreover, in the spirit of Christmas, we are willing to bet that Oliverio's former rival, Congressman McKinley, would be among the first to welcome Oliverio over. 

After all, McKinley has spent many hours and logged thousands of miles as Chairman of the State GOP to get more Democrats and Independents to consider switching parties.  McKinley knows that the vast majority of West Virginians all want the same thing:  more job creation through a decent tax structure, honest government at all levels, a strong national defense, and leaders who respect the traditional family values that West Virginians everywhere honor.

If Oliverio believes in the same things, we predict that McKinley will gladly welcome him aboard the WV GOP. If better balance between the state's two parties could come about from their sometimes rocky relationship, why not go for it?

After electing solid leaders like the Republican, David McKinley, isn't it time for the state's moderate to conservative Democrats to recognize their true home? 


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