Successful politics is personal, not just local. That's why members of Congress tell their staffs that if a constituent calls with a Social Security problem or some other complaint about Washington, that issue takes precedence over others.
But that's reactive personal politics - dealing with a voter's existing problem. There are even more votes to be gained through proactive personal politics - handing people government-funded benefits they may not have expected.
President Barack Obama is a king of the technique. Think about "cash for clunkers," home weatherization programs and changes in immigration law without consulting Congress. Think also of "Obamacare." When you go to the polls in November, for whom will you vote? The guy whose ideas are good for the country or the one who is working hard to make you believe he gave you a gift, paid for by all those folks who actually pay taxes?
Now, governors and state legislators can get into the act, courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court.
In upholding much of Obamacare, the national health care takeover law, the high court dropped what some analysts saw as one disappointment on the White House. It cannot withhold Medicaid funding from states that refuse to go along with the statute's requirement that they expand their Medicaid programs.
Obamacare mandates states, which share Medicaid costs with Washington, provide health care coverage under the program to anyone earning 133 percent of the federal poverty level or less. Some governors already have said that, because of the high court ruling, their states won't go along.
In most states, including West Virginia and Ohio, the issue remains up in the air.
But if you're Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin or any number of legislators up for re-election, you may be looking at the matter from the angle of personal politics.
This year's gubernatorial election is a rematch for Tomblin, the Democrat, and businessman Bill Maloney, the Republican. They faced off in a special election last year, in which Tomblin prevailed only by a narrow margin. He received 149,202 votes to Maloney's 141,656, with 10,226 votes scattered among other candidates.
Tomblin garnered just 49.55 percent of the total votes cast. He could be in trouble this fall, especially because the ticket on which he'll be listed is headed by Obama.
What if there was a way to turn last year's 7,546-vote margin of victory into a five-digit win? There are votes to be had - among the 118,000 to 140,000 Mountain State residents who would receive free health insurance if the state goes along with the Obamacare expansion of Medicaid.
Talk about deeply personal politics. Rest assured, Tomblin and some legislators will think about the possibility if they haven't already.
Expanding the Medicaid program as an election campaign tactic would force Tomblin and many legislators to reverse course on a basic philosophy, however. It is the idea state government should be as frugal as possible with taxpayers' money - certainly not establishing new entitlements for which West Virginians may have trouble paying in the future.
Medicaid expansion certainly would fit that category: After three years, when the federal government stops covering the state's share of higher costs, the new Medicaid enrollees could cost West Virginia taxpayers $200 million or so a year more than what we pay for the program now.
We already shell out plenty for Medicaid. During the next couple of years, the annual cost borne by state taxpayers is expected to approach $650 million. That's without an expansion.
Will Tomblin and legislative leaders decide expanding Medicaid is their ticket to re-election? Or will they realize that doing so may backfire if fiscally conservative voters decide they don't want state government to go back to spending like drunken sailors?
In other words, will Tomblin and company realize many voters take it personally when mountains of debt are built up for our children and grandchildren?
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mike Myer is executive editor of The Intelligencer and the Wheeling News-Register. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com