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W.Va. Dems rally at state's birthday celebration

June 20, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- Rod Snyder always had kept his music separate from his politics - until Friday night at The Apollo Civic Theatre.

Snyder, who tried out for "American Idol" in 2004, also is president of the West Virginia Young Democrats, and his father, former state Sen. Herb Snyder, is on the campaign trail again this year.

With his father and Sen. John Rockefeller seated among an audience of more 300 gathered for 2008 West Virginia Serenade, Snyder admitted he was a bit nervous.

"My life consists of politics and music, but not usually together," Snyder told the crowd that came out for the West Virginia birthday celebration and fundraiser presented by the Berkeley County Democratic Association.

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Snyder was one of five acts to take part in the event, which honored Martinsburg Police Department Officer J.R. Butcher, the Family Support Program of the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard, Eagle School Intermediate Principal Margaret Kursey and the Shenandoah Community Health Clinic.

After being introduced by Gov. Joe Manchin, Rockefeller thanked the party faithful for "giving me a shot" at being re-elected to the U.S. Senate before taking several minutes to tout the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama, who handily was defeated in the West Virginia primary by Hillary Clinton in May.

Rockefeller, recalling his early years in West Virginia politics, said state residents simply were not familiar with Obama.

"We in West Virginia don't accept strangers easily," Rockefeller said. "I was a carpetbagger for about 12 years."

Only hours removed from joining 15 other Democratic governors Friday morning for an economic roundtable with Obama in Chicago, Manchin said efforts by the party's presumptive nominee to reach out to state leaders was a first. Manchin said he and the other governors had dinner with Obama on Thursday night.

Appearing on stage with his wife, Gayle Manchin, the governor said his wife's birthday also happened to fall on the state's 145th birthday. Prior to arriving at the theater about an hour after the program started, Manchin met with members of Martinsburg High School's class of 1963.

Introduced by Anne Barth, the party's nominee for the 2nd Congressional District seat, Manchin said the former staffer for U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd was going to be "a wonderful congresswoman."

"We have to have change, we truly do," Manchin said.

In a green room interview prior to going on stage, Rockefeller said he believes Obama will win West Virginia, noting the candidate's ability to sit down and talk with people.

That trait was why President George W. Bush got elected, Rockefeller said.

"Obama has that," Rockefeller said.

Rockefeller acknowledged he received "a little brushback" on his pre-primary endorsement of Obama, who he said also has a sense of direction when people feel the nation is headed in the wrong direction.

"The issues are all with the Democrats ... I think the state's going to go blue," Rockefeller said.

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