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Last Updated: Monday, 25 October, 2004, 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK
State profile: West Virginia
West Virginia's legislature has been Democrat-controlled since the 1930s and until 2000 had only voted Republican three times in the previous 65 years.

The result in 2000, when the state backed Bush, was therefore perhaps the biggest surprise of the night, and both parties will fight hard for the state's five electoral college votes this time.

The state was formed when it seceded from Virginia after the Civil War. Although its coal-based economy boomed during World War II and during the oil crisis of the 1970s, it has fluctuated wildly and the long-term decline has given West Virginia its strongly Democratic political complexion.

Population: 1,808,344 (ranked 37 among states)
Governor: Bob Wise (D)
Electoral college votes: 5

This decline has seen immigrant workers come and go, developments such as machine strip-mining replacing miners, and regulations like the 1990 Clean Air Act further reduce the demand for West Virginia's high-sulphur coal.

Between 1980 and 2000 the industry haemorrhaged 44,000 jobs (73% of the workforce). And despite West Virginian pride and loyalty, the 1980s saw the largest population decrease of any state in the US.

House of Representatives:
2 Democrat, 1 Republican
Senate: 2 Democrat

However, not all has been doom and gloom. West Virginia's senior Senator, Robert Byrd, has been a long and doughty campaigner for federal money and it has flowed to the state over the last several decades.

The late 1990s saw a dramatic improvement in the state's economy as the unemployment rate plummeted.

2000: Bush 52%, Gore 46%
1996: Clinton 52%, Dole 37%, Perot 11%
1992: Clinton 48%, Bush 35%, Perot 16%

When the economy went into recession, West Virginia suffered, and President Bush's steel tariffs were as much intended to protect steel jobs in West Virginia as they were to steel producers in Pennsylvania and Ohio. The state is being fought over.


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