Mitt Romney's War on the War on Coal: Why Go After a Shrinking Voter Base?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 27 2012 12:46 PM

Mitt Romney's War on the War on Coal: Why Go After a Shrinking Voter Base?

It's one of the Romney campaign's 10th hour arguments against Barack Obama in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia. The Obama administration is waging a "war on coal." Before the Republican House packed up, it cast a symbolic vote for the Stop the War on Coal Act, to choke off regulations on the industry. Romney is on the air with ads reminding voters that 1) there are a bunch of sad coal miners out there, 2) China is using plenty of coal, and 3) in 2008, Obama warned that he'd make it tougher to build a coal plant.

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The 2008 clip is an example of the Republican idea that Obama was never truly vetted in 2008; McCain used the video, too, but voters never saw it. The focus on coal is microtargeting on areas that rejected Obama last time -- often by larger margins than it rejected John Kerry, who lost these states. At a morning hang-out with former Rep. Tom Davis, who held part of Northern Virginia for Republicans before his 2008 retirement, I asked how much oomph the coal ads could have.

"Northern Virginia is 28 percent of the statewide vote," said Davis. "Coal country is 9 percent. And the problem is that it's not a growing vote. The NoVa vote is a growing vote. The Hispanic vote is growing. The Asian vote is growing." Could Romney benefit from driving up the margins in this smaller electorate? Obviously. But -- "We should be buying ads in Asian newspapers. They're cheaper and they have an impact. A lot of this ad money is wasted."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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