The Washington Times on Monday posted a lengthy piece on coal politics in Virginia, exploring whether President Obama’s new environmental regulations affecting coal-fired power plants put Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat who’s running for reelection, in a bind.
“Mr. Warner burnished his political credentials in part by forging inroads with voters in coal-mining towns in southwestern Virginia,” writes the Times’s S.A. Miller. “That support could be in jeopardy if his likely Republican opponent, Ed Gillespie, convinces voters that Mr. Warner has helped wage the presidents’ alleged ‘war on coal.’ “
But Warner no longer needs to cling to coal.
Now it’s true that when Warner ran for governor in 2001, he built strong alliances in coal-mining towns in Southwestern Virginia. But the demographics have changed since then, and there are fewer coal voters now than ever. While Warner’s surely eager to protect his centrist image and stay loyal to constituencies that helped him get ahead in the past, the piece may overstate how much danger he’s actually in.
Obama had just rolled out his preliminary regulations for future coal-fired power plants, the step toward the regulations for existing coal-fired power plants he announced this week. While there were some key differences between them (including that the implementation of these initial power-plant regulations was much less devastating for the coal industry), the politics and dynamics were essentially the same.
That fall, McAuliffe voiced his support for Obama’s existing power-plant regulations as inoffensively as possible. And his opponent Ken Cucinelli attacked him over it, much as Warner’s opponent, Ed Gillespie, is attacking him now. Not only did McAuliffe win the gubernatorial election, he won with an 8 percent advantage on energy and environment issues. The takeaway: statewide voters, just last fall, voted for a mildly pro-regulation Democrat. Why wouldn’t they do the same now?
This election season Warner finds himself in a position that’s uncannily similar to McAuliffe’s, trying to walk the line between pleasing the state’s Democratic base and pleasing voters in the coal mining towns that helped elect him back in 2001. Setting aside questions of allegiance, the electoral politics are pretty straightforward: Democrats have little to lose in taking on coal.
Over at Slate, Dave Weigel has some great maps detailing why coal country doesn’t have the political sway it used to (and what’s true for Virginia here is true nationally as well). In particular, he notes that votes are down in coal-loving Dickenson county (where Warner opponent Ed Gillespie recently expressed his rage over the EPA’s new regulations), dropping from 4,805 in 2001 to 3,433 in 2013. Vote counts in upscale areas like Loudoun County, meanwhile, are up.
So how much of a bellwether is Virginia? The state is somewhat uniquely positioned in the climate debate, with its Southwestern areas dependent on coal (the state ranks 14th in the country for coal production) and other parts like Norfolk threatened by the sea level-rise caused by climate change. Arguably the most covetous part of the electorate, however, are the swing voters in Fairfax and Loudoun counties, where people couldn’t care less about coal.
What We're Following See More »
There seems to be a clear consensus forming about Monday's debate: Hillary Clinton was the clear winner. One focus group of undecided Pennsylvania voters, conducted by GOP pollster Frank Luntz, found 16 favored Clinton while five picked Donald Trump. In a Florida focus group organized by CNN, 18 of 20 undecided voters saw Clinton as the winner.
As both candidates walked off the stage, Donald Trump lauded himself for being restrained and for not bringing up Bill Clinton. "I didn’t want to say—her husband was in the room along with her daughter, who I think is a very nice young lady—and I didn’t want to say what I was going to say about what’s been going on in their life," Trump said. Trump claims he stopped himself from hitting Bill Clinton because daughter Chelsea was in the room.
At the end of the debate, moderator Lester Holt asked Donald Trump if he stands by his statement that Hillary Clinton didn't have the look of a president. Trump responded by saying Holt misquoted him, instead saying that Clinton "doesn't have the stamina." Clinton responded by saying that when Trump visits 112 countries as secretary of state, he can talk to her about stamina.
Donald Trump, when pressed by Lester Holt on why he finally admitted that President Obama was born in America, repeated his widely debunked claim that it was started by Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton went point by point on how race can so often determine the treatment that people receive, mentioning recent shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte, calling for restored trust between communities and police, and demanding criminal justice reform. Trump responded by calling for law and order and touting his endorsements from police unions. He then said that “African Americans are living in hell,” saying they are just walking down the street and getting “shot ... being decimated by crime."