Coal-producing regions glow with anti-Obama feeling
The battle is at its fiercest in Ohio, the battleground of battleground states. After Obama leading significantly for months, latest opinion polls show the gap between him and Romney has narrowed to within the margin for error.
No Republican candidate has ever won the presidency without taking Ohio. Now, Romney’s campaign is doing everything it can to bring the vote out in coal country.
Billboards on freeways in some of the regions tell drivers that they are entering the “Obama administration’s no jobs zone”. The adverts are sponsored by the coal industry group, the Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security.
Other ads that tell of the importance of protecting the fossil fuel by various other lobby groups such as the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the American Energy Alliance and the American Petroleum Institute.
In addition, other oil and coal business owners are pouring millions into campaigns that either oppose Obama or support Romney. Multimillionaire William Koch, who owns oil, gas and coal firms, has given millions to campaigns against Obama.
His brothers, David and Charles Koch, who are also in the oil business, have mounted an effort to raise as much as $100 million.
Obama is trying to fight back, highlighting Romney’s shifting stance on the issue and emphasising the kind of policies – such as universal health insurance – that could benefit blue-collar workers in these areas.
His support for green energy is also harnessing votes in swing states such as Colorado, which has become a leader in harnessing wind energy.
But many miners are split. One of the biggest unions, the United Mine Workers of America, gave Obama its full-throated support in 2008. On this occasion it has opted not to endorse either candidate. A spokesman for the union points out that many of the toughest environmental rules were first enacted under Republican administrations.
“A lot of our members don’t realise that,” a spokesman said.
“But whoever is in charge is going to get blamed.”
Robert Murray, meanwhile, knows exactly where he stands. He says he is motivated only by saving the livelihoods of his workers.
And he’s convinced that the wider public will end up paying the price through rising unemployment and higher electricity prices.
“Obama is on a very radical agenda to appease his supporters: radical environmentalists, labour unions, liberal elites, crony capitalists . . . Hollywood characters,” he says.
“He’s destroying the lives of people on fixed incomes who will not be able to pay electricity bills . . . and he’s doing this as China is expanding its use of coal-fired electricity.
“I never thought I would see Democrats turn on their neighbours like this, just to get their president re-elected. But that’s what’s happening.”