What effect will coal miners and their families have on the election in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia?
Friends of coal are certain they know the enemy.
They fault President Barack Obama and his Environmental Protection Agency for new clean air rules they deride as a devastating blow to a multibillion-dollar industry that has been the lifeblood of Appalachia for generations. The agency standards imposed earlier this year tightened limits on existing coal powered-plant emissions while guidelines on restricting greenhouse gases could affect new plants as early as 2013.
Along the rolling hills of this tiny Ohio town — population just over 5,100 — campaign signs for judges, state legislators and county officials crowd the neat lawns. As the road curves toward the interstate, one banner overshadows them all: "End the war on coal. Fire Obama."
West Virginia seems to be leaning toward the Republican at the top of the ticket
In West Virginia, where the president is wildly unpopular, Sen. Joe Manchin boasts about his unyielding opposition to the EPA and his confrontations with the administration. In his latest campaign ad, Manchin — rifle in hand — alludes to a previous commercial in which he shoots Obama's bill to cap greenhouse gases from coal-burning power plants. The senator says the state has enough coal and natural gas to provide energy and jobs for decades, and "I'll take on anyone who tries to stop us."
A very popular ad in Ohio
Anti-Obama commercials on the radio in Ohio use the president's 2008 remark that if someone wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can go ahead, but "it's just that it will bankrupt them." The tagline says "let's cap Obama and trade him for Mitt Romney."
But Mike Carey, chairman of the Ohio Coal Association, doesn't see Brown as a friend of coal.
"You can have very safe miners, but if they can't mine coal, maybe they're going to be selling canaries because they're not going to be mining coal," Carey said.