Tales from the Trail

West Virginia primary ballot included felon, Virginia’s lacked candidates


A convicted felon not only made West Virginia’s Democratic primary ballot, he won 72,544 – or 41 percent - of votes in the contest against Democratic President Barack Obama, and could receive at least one of the state’s delegates to the Democratic National Convention this summer.

The inmate, Keith Judd, is serving a 17-1/2 year sentence at a federal prison in Texas for making threats at the University of New Mexico in 1999.

Judd’s performance was taken as a sign of deep animosity in West Virginia toward Obama, who was handily defeated in the state’s 2008 primary by Hillary Clinton and lost there by 13 percentage points to Republican John McCain in the general election. Joe Manchin, the state’s former governor who is now a Democratic senator, declined to say on Tuesday whether he had voted for Obama.

On Tuesday, Judd beat Obama in nine of West Virginia’s 55 counties. Republican party officials, aides and strategists emailed and tweeted with glee about Judd’s performance, and the Associated Press headlined its story, “Against Obama, even a jailbird gets some votes.”

The inmate’s performance also highlighted the sharp differences across the country in rules for running for office. While Judd, a convicted felon, made his way onto West Virginia’s ballot, leading Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were unable to satisfy the complicated requirements to get onto the ballot to compete in the Republican primary in neighboring Virginia on March 6. 

NRSC eats humble pie over West Virginia “hicky” ad


The National Republican Senatorial Committee at first denied having anything to do with the infamous TV casting call that sought “hicky” actors to pose as West Virginia voters in a Republican campaign ad.

But today, the committee charged with getting Republicans elected to the U.S. Senate, fired one of its TV ad vendors and apologized to West Virginians, saying it had learned the consulting firm in question — Jamestown Associates – was responsible for the remark.

The NRSC also apologized to the Philadelphia talent agent who was falsely blamed for coming up with the word “hicky.”

‘If I could live another 100 years, I’d like to continue in the Senate’ – Robert Byrd

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – It was a sight that would have seemed unimaginable when Senator Robert Byrd was growing up in West Virginia.

On Friday at a memorial service for the longest-serving member of the U.S. Congress, the first black American president paid tribute to a man who in his youth had belonged to the Ku Klux Klan.

OBAMA/It was just a moment in time, but reflected the sweep of social and political change in U.S. history during the 92 years of Byrd’s life.

Senator Byrd’s final poetic moment in the chamber he served


It was a poetic moment for the Senate.

Senator Robert Byrd’s flag-draped casket  was carried into the chamber where he had fiercely protected Senate tradition, rule, and decorum during more than half -a-century of pressing for the needs of his constituents in West Virginia.

His body lay in repose on the Senate floor in front of the wooden desks where he helped shape U.S. history and displayed his oratory skills.

The last time such an honor was bestowed was in 1959, the year that Byrd joined the Senate.

Amid clamor to drop out, Clinton campaigns on

CHARLESTON – While Democrats fret over the lengthy nomination battle and pundits wring their hands over whether Sen. Hillary Clinton should pull out, the candidate is out campaigning as if all those political storm clouds were not hanging over her head.

On Tuesday, as West Virginia voters headed to the polls, Clinton stopped to greet people at an outdoor flower market in Charleston. She was met with enthusiasm, especially from older, white women who have proven to be a pillar of her support.

“West Virginia is behind you, darling,” one woman shouted.

Clinton shook hands, posed for pictures and cooed over babies as shoppers lined up to meet her. Shouts of “She’s here, she’s here” rippled through the market.

Barack Obama, pool shark??

rtr206t4.jpgCHARLESTON, W.Va. – We’ve seen him play basketball, he has been teased mercilessly about his dismal bowling skills and he even pretended to take part in a 400-meter hurdles race at a track meet last week. But pool?

Barack Obama loves it. And he decided to spend part of a 6-hour campaign stop in West Virginia — just one day before the primary election there — playing pool.

“The sign of a misspent youth,” Obama joked as he walked around and eyed the table in the smoky Schultzie’s Billiards in South Charleston.

Hillary the Fighter versus Hillary the Uniter?

boxer.jpgLOUISVILLE, Ky. – As Barack Obama gains momentum in his battle with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s 2008 presidential nomination, there are signs that the scrappy New York senator’s inner fighter may be giving way to the uniter who will knit the fractured party back together once the bruising nomination process ends. 

But parsing her recent campaign speeches from West Virginia and South Dakota to Oregon and Kentucky, Clinton does not appear ready to give up the fight just yet.  

At a speech late on Friday here, Clinton appeared initially to aim for a conciliatory tone toward Obama, only mentioning her challenger to draw comparisons between women and blacks — two groups that she said had suffered greatly under the original U.S. Constitution written by America’s founders.