EDITORIAL: Uphill Battle for Maloney in GOP's 2011 Governor's Race

HNN Staff

Just a few weeks ago, Morgantown businessman Bill Maloney was in high cotton, having bested two more seasoned Republicans to secure the nomination of the WV GOP for Governor--all on his first try.  Granted, Maloney had more money to spend in that race than his opponents.  In the general election, to be held on an obscure Saturday in early October, Maloney will face a candidate more flush with funding: Earl Ray "Big Earl" Tomblin.

That would be enough to bring Maloney's dreams back down to earth.  But how about Tomblin receiving the NRA endorsement this past week?  That must have been a crusher.  Then there was news that his campaign manager, Matt Dumbroski, was leaving with the last half of the ballgame to go, ostensibly to "attend to family issues" out of state.  (We challenge anyone to show us a political consultant who has ever left a campaign that was redhot to attend to family issues.)

Plus, all we hear about is Tomblin's fundraising machine as compared to Maloney's low turnout affairs.  Will Maloney be willing to spend upwards of $2 million of his own money to blanket the state's TV stations with ads from now until October?   Unlikely, if his public complaining about how much he had spent in the primary is any indication.  That was about $750,000.  $2 million seems like too much pain for the former oil driller.

So what went wrong with Maloney?  He had a crystal clear message, though one that wasn't well fleshed out.  Maloney contrasted himself with "career politicians" in the primary and now the general.  He hoped this would bring attention to the fact that he represented the potential success of private sector job creation.  Certainly, Maloney has had a measure of success as a businessman, no doubt about that.  So what's the problem?

"Maloney is a first-timer, pure and simple," said Jack Ellis, HNN's Chief Political Analyst.  "He's made a few rookie mistakes, but most of those are to be expected.  But one thing I don't think he's done is to really scour the political landscape for the people in each county who can help him bring out the votes."

"There are conservative folks who don't even need to know a candidate--all they have to know is that the candidate is Republican, for less taxes, and lower government," continued Ellis.  "If he does enough digging and finds those activists, they could make a difference for him.  But you won't find them at GOP gatherings all the time--you have to get low to the ground and sniff them out."

We agree with Ellis.  Maloney is an unknown quantity to most people in his own party. He has come out of nowhere, and people don't usually get enthusiastic about people they don't know.  Unless Maloney spends some time with the conservative vote-influencers statewide, it will be very tough sledding for him come October against veteran politico Tomblin.

You can bet Earl Ray will have his southern West Virginians turning out in force that day.

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