Republicans are latching on to the idea of a Democrat-led “war on coal,” hoping to woo anxious residents of coal-country states like West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio by presenting their rivals as hostile to the industry—and it's working, and could lead to the Election Day demise of some Democratic House incumbents. Dems deny the war exists, and most have good records when it comes to the industry; some even voted against cap-and-trade legislation. But that hasn’t blunted the power of the rhetoric.
Two West Virginia races are representative of the battle. One challenger, looking to go up against longtime Rep. Nick Rahall, put it bluntly. “If you’re against me, you’re voting against your job and against mining coal,” he tells Politico. A Democratic official complains that the incumbents actually protect the industry, advocating coal to fellow party members "who may not have warm and fuzzy feelings" about it, but the opposition isn’t listening. A hopeful challenger in another race says the issue plays now because Republicans can also run against “Obama and his very liberal, very aggressive social agenda.”