W.Va. voters shifting parties
News that fewer than half the voters in West Virginia consider themselves Democrats should have come as no surprise to party leaders.
Their reaction to it – boasting that they still outnumber Republicans – was to be expected. But it ignores an ongoing shift in the way Mountain State residents view politics.
For many years, Democrat voter registrations in the state were twice that of the Republican Party. At one time Democrat registrations totaled two-thirds of the total.
No more. New registration figures show that, as of June, just 49.9 percent of Mountain State voters identify themselves as Democrats.
Democrat leaders point out Republicans have no room to gloat. Strictly in terms of voter registration, with the GOP controlling just 28.8 percent, that is true.
But it ignores the reality that most of those who registered as “no party” – 233,075 people – tend to vote for Republican candidates. At the very least, they prefer Democrat candidates who are much more conservative than party leaders.
Clearly, much of the blame for that falls squarely on the shoulders of President Barack Obama, a Democrat. In West Virginia, he is the most unpopular president in the memories of many people.
In many ways, however, Obama merely reflects the big-government ideology for which his party stands. That knowledge has turned many West Virginians who were staunch Democrats for years against the party.
At one time they believed Democrat leaders thought as they did. Now, they find the party machinery has been turned against them in many ways, ranging from the war on coal and affordable electricity to freedom of choice on health insurance. And it needs to be said that many socially conservative West Virginians do not like their party’s priorities in that regard, either.
Voters who changed their registrations to abandon the Democrat Party were sending a message. Party leaders ignore it only at their political peril.