Yesterday, prominent Democrats in West Virginia — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Sen. Joe Manchin and Rep. Nick Rahall — announced they would not be attending the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina. And a spokesman for another Democrat, Rep. Mark Critz (D-PA), someone Republicans feel they can defeat in 2012, confirmed to Roll Call that Critz would not be attending the convention as well.
Many Democrats at the state level have run away from Obama’s unpopular economic policies and presidency, but Democrats from coal country have even more incentive to do so, because Obama’s administration has waged a war on coal since Obama’s first days in office. In 2010, Manchin ran a famous ad in his Senate race against Obama’s Cap and Trade bill in which he literally took aim and fired at the bill.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 98 percent of West Virginia’s power is generated by coal. In Pennsylvania, that number is 55 percent, but it is greater in Critz’s newly-drawn 12th District, in the heart of Pennsylvania’s southwestern coal country.
In fact, after Obama’s economic speech in Cleveland, Critz, a Democrat, lit into Obama, issuing a statement that said, “President Obama and others in Washington need to realize that we cannot spend our way to prosperity” and must “enact policies that allow us to take advantage of our vast natural resources such as coal and natural gas in a safe and responsible manner which will lower energy costs and create jobs.” Critz added that Obama’s first step should be to approve the Keystone pipeline.
And Obama’s anti-coal agenda will be put in the spotlight on Wednesday when the Senate will vote on a resolution to stop the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (or, utility MACT) rule that is, according to Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), the “centerpiece of President Obama’s war on coal.” There has been a considerable amount of public pressure against this rule.
At the end of May, Mitt Romney visited Colorado’s coal country, which is doing better relative to other coal-heavy areas, to highlight Obama’s anti-coal policies. In an election many think will be won by a razor-thin margin, Obama’s anti-coal agenda may not only hurt him in coal countries in crucial swing states like Pennsylvania, Colorado, West Virginia and Virginia, but his weakness among voters in those areas may be a leading indicator of his general weakness among blue collar voters in the general election.