West Virginia Governor Opts Out of Democratic Convention

Gov. Tomblin is walking a tight rope in a conservative state.

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West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin was in a quandary this week.

He's a Democrat in a coal-dependent state that has increasingly become disenchanted with Obama.

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He's also an automatic super-delegate to the Democratic National Convention, which means he's required by West Virginia Democratic Party rules to make known by Tuesday who he would support for president.

But then Tomblin came up with a brilliant, if not totally original solution: Skip the convention altogether.

By doing so, he would not be forced by the party rules to make any announcement at all.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and Congressman Nick Rahall both said they'd play hookie as well, the Charleston Daily Mail first reported Monday.

Tomblin did not immediately respond to request for comment from Whispers, but his spokesman Chris Stadelman released a statement Monday saying the governor would skip the convention and adding that Tomblin "has serious problems with both Governor Romney and President Obama."

The governor's opponent Bill Maloney, however, said in a statement on his website that West Virginians aren't stupid, and are well aware that Tomblin still supports Obama.

Just today, Tomblin aired an ad for reelection funded by America Works USA, a Democratic Governors Association front group, according to Maloney campaign manager Seth Wimer.

The group has aired a number of negative ads about Maloney in the past.

Whether or not West Virginians know what Tomblin's up to, Tad Devine—a Democratic strategist and a creator of the superdelegate system—said the move by Tomblin is "more of an inoculation against something that could happen."

"If you go to the convention and are visible and pictures are taken of you, your opponents can take those images and use them against you," says Devine. "And if you're a Democrat in a very Republican area ... you don't want to look like the poster boy for the DNC."

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at eflock@usnews.com or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.