As he geared up for a contentious election in November 2011, Democrat Joe Manchin demonstrated his independence from his party by shooting a hole through a printed copy of the cap-and-trade bill in a Senate race ad. This year, Sen. Manchin, along with several other West Virginia Democrats running for re-election, are engaging in another free-spirited move: They will skip the Democratic Convention entirely.
On Monday, the West Virginia Democratic Party announced when it released its delegation plans that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Manchin and Rep. Nick Rahall all plan to bow out of this summer's convention in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 3-6. That means none of the three Democrats will help formally nominate the president.
"I intend to spend this fall focused on the people of West Virginia, whether that's representing them in my official duties or here at home, where I can hear about their concerns and ideas to solve the problems of this great nation," Manchin said in a statement. "I will remain focused on bringing people together for the next generation, not the next election."
State party Chairman Larry Puccio downplayed the lawmakers' decisions on Tuesday during an interview with West Virginia's MetroNews Talkline. "In the past, if you look at Republican conventions or Democrat conventions, you see some of the folks that are able to attend, some that are not. That's up to them as individuals and candidates," Puccio said.
But Republicans and others view the lawmakers' decisions as clear efforts to distance themselves from a president who remains unpopular in their state.
Federal prisoner Keith Judd made national headlines last month when he earned a surprising 4 out of 10 votes against President Barack Obama in West Virginia's Democratic presidential primary.
"We all know the only reason they're refusing to attend the DNC Convention is they're afraid to tell the people of West Virginia who they support for President, and any attempt to suggest otherwise is political spin aimed at purposefully misleading the voters," Conrad Lucas, chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party said in a statement.
"We have a governor who is so afraid of his party bosses that he refuses to answer the simple question of whether or not another 4-year term for Barack Obama is good for our state," Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Maloney said of Tomblin in a statement.
Similar criticisms were voiced in and outside the state.
All three Democrats who are skipping the convention are up for re-election this fall. Manchin has drawn repeated questions for choosing to remain mum on whether he will actually support the president's re-election campaign.