Salena Zito

Democrats assumed he needed them to win, he said, insisting he needed the support of labor and blacks, the party’s key constituencies. Yet their strength turned out to be all noise, no substance.

Republicans considered taking him as their candidate but fielded one of their own.

“The party insisted I depend on them,” Byrd said. “I depended on the voters’ common sense.”

He bet that voters would show allegiance to common sense, too – and he won, based on his record, his reputation and his understanding that people were not as aligned to parties as most experts assumed.

The Byrd family has been in the newspaper business since 1860, and “politics and newspapers are my passions,” he said. He watched with fascination this year’s primary process.

“I do believe that the Republicans went with the man who they believed would best handle the economy for the country,” he said. “I, for one, think they were right.”

He supports Republican Mitt Romney over Democrat Barack Obama, despite his love for what his old party once stood for.

“My father was adamant about fiscal discipline,” he said. “So was I. I still am.

“Obama is a very skilled speaker,” he continued. “In that, he has a gift. But I believe that the country needs a skilled leader who understands the nuances of generating jobs and all that goes with that – one who understands the importance of fiscal discipline.

“That is Mitt Romney.”

And he chuckles at those who talk about Washington being more broken than ever, or about unrest dividing Americans.

“I guess they never heard of the ’60s – in both centuries,” he said.

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.