CHARLESTON - Dogged by questions whether they would support President Barack Obama, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin from West Virginia will not attend the Democratic National Convention in September, the West Virginia Democratic Party announced late Monday.
Tomblin and Manchin are two of the automatic unpledged delegates, sometimes called super delegates, in the West Virginia delegation to the convention. Rep. Nick Joe Rahall, D-W.Va., a super delegate, also will not attend, the party said.
The decision to no-show the convention sidesteps a requirement of the West Virginia Delegate Selection Plan for the 2012 national convention that the chairman of the state party certify the presidential preference of delegates by today. Republicans Bill Maloney and John Raese, running against Tomblin and Manchin, respectively, have been using the president's unpopularity in West Virginia as campaign fodder against Manchin and Tomblin.
Larry Puccio, chairman of the state Democratic Party, will be chairman of the delegation and Sen. Jay Rockefeller will be honorary chairman.
Tomblin has made the decision to not attend the Democratic National Convention, said campaign spokesman Chris Stadelman.
''As he has said, he has serious problems with both Governor Romney and President Obama,'' Stadelman said. ''The governor feels that his time is best spent working in West Virginia to move our state forward instead of attending a four-day political rally in North Carolina.''
Manchin said he wants to devote his attention to the needs of the people of West Virginia.
''I intend to spend this fall focused on the people of West Virginia, whether that's representing them in my official U.S. Senate duties or here at home, where I can hear about their concerns and ideas to solve the problems of this great nation,'' he said. ''I will remain focused on bringing people together for the next generation, not the next election.''
Although Tomblin has said he is skipping the convention over differences with the president, Republican gubernatorial challenger Bill Maloney said Tomblin still supports the president on a number of issues.
"The fact is, Earl Ray supports Obama," Maloney said. "He supported Obama's health care plan that cut hundreds of billions from Medicare and hurt West Virginia seniors.
''He refused to join 27 other governors in suing Obama to stop Obamacare and, instead, led West Virginia to become the second state in the nation to begin implementing Obamacare.
''It's why an Obama-funded organization pumped millions of dollars in attack ads into West Virginia last year to prop up and save Earl Ray's sagging campaign. West Virginia needs new leadership," Maloney said.
Politicians across the state have accused the Obama administration of targeting the coal industry with strict environmental regulations to curtail mining of coal and using coal-fired power plants.
"Obama's liberal policies and his war on coal have cost us thousands of jobs," Maloney said. "I'm not afraid to say it: Four more years of Barack Obama would be devastating to West Virginia's families. I'm going to do everything I can to defeat him in November.''
Representatives from the Raese campaign could not be reached for comment Monday night.