11/8/14, "Dems may face long exile from coal country," Politico Pro, Erica Martinson
p. 1: "Coal was only one issue for voters, who also cited the economy and Obamacare as reasons for ditching the Democrats in the midterms. But with EPA moving ahead on rules to limit greenhouse gases from power plants, and its past pollution regulations helping push dozens of old coal-fired power plants into retirement, candidates who line up with the president became a tough sell in areas that have few other industries outside the shrinking coal-mining sector.
The “policies and priorities espoused by the national Democratic Party, as reflected in their platform, don’t resonate with the priorities, beliefs and feelings of the people” of West Virginia, said Evan Jenkins, the Republican who will take Rahall’s place in Congress.
“Southern West Virginia in particular has been devastated economically over this last six years in the war on coal,” he said. “It’s very difficult for West Virginia Democrats to explain to the voters why their party maintains such an anti-coal agenda.”
But one West Virginia Democrat said the party may have a good chance of shedding that anti-coal image once Obama leaves office.
“Obviously the war on coal has been a powerful narrative for the Republicans,” said Dave Eplin, executive director of the West Virginia Young Democrats. “I think at this point they may have tied it so tightly to Obama that it may be difficult to continue it when he’s out of office.”...
Across coal states, the United Mine Workers of America union ferociously backed Democratic candidates, including Rahall, Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky and Capito’s opponent, Natalie Tennant.
But its endorsements didn’t appear to sway many voters.
(p. 2) In West Virginia exit polls, 80 percent of voters said they felt the country was “seriously off on the wrong track,” 61 percent said they have an unfavorable view of the Democratic Party and 44 percent described their feelings toward the Obama administration as “angry.” Just under half of voters polled said part of their Senate vote was to express opposition to Obama.
“I think in West Virginia you are seeing systemic change,” said Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association. The president is the “prime mover,” but it’s the result of a long-term effort by state Republicans where just a few years ago, a Democrat running for office might not have even faced a Republican challenger.
While West Virginia has been trending toward the Republican Party for years, in Kentucky, where Sen. Mitch McConnell beat Grimes by 15 percentage points, Obama’s policies on coal appeared to have helped the GOP, he said.
McConnell won by the largest margins in the state’s coal-producing counties, often topping the 70 percent mark.
“I’m not sure some of those counties he’s won ever,” said Bissett.
The senator won 47 counties where more than 60 percent of voters are registered Democrats."...
Image: "Democrats’ support in coal areas may never come back. | AP Photo," via Politico
United Mineworkers of America PAC, 2014 expenditures, opensecrets.org.
United Mineworkers of America, spending by party, 1990-2014: