Is the “War on Coal” real or not?
Depends on who you talk to.
But the people of coal-producing regions of Appalachia spoke loudly on Tuesday during election day.
In the wake of recent mine shutdowns and massive layoffs, the majority of voters believe Barack Obama has been no friend to the region’s main source of income — the coal industry — and showed their anger by voting in droves against the president.
The voting tsunami was felt in Logan County on election day.
Since the days of FDR, Logan County had been one of the bluest of the blue counties in West Virginia when it came to presidential politics.
To see just how blue Logan County had been in the past just look at the 1972 election.
In Republican Richard Nixon’s ‘72 reelection landslide, Democratic challenger George McGovern of South Dakota carried just one state nationally.
He won just one single West Virginia county.
But in the last two presidential cycles, Logan County has uncharacteristically trended red.
Despite his reelection victory on Tuesday, President Obama was soundly rejected by “Coal Country” counties in southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southwest Virginia.
Republican Mitt Romney swept to victory in all 55 West Virginia counties, carried all but four counties in Kentucky and took all of Virginia’s southwestern coal producing counties.
The margins weren’t even close.
In Logan County, Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, beat Obama by a whopping 40 points in a 69-29 percent margin.
The wide disparity and Obama’s deep unpopularity in Logan County came as no surprise. Back in May during the Democratic Primary, Obama lost 56-44 to Keith Judd, a convicted felon serving time in a Texas prison, who somehow got on the West Virginia ballot. Judd took 41 percent of the state’s vote.
Obama was beaten in the 2008 election by John McCain by a 54-44 margin in Logan County. It was the first time a Democratic presidential candidate had lost in the county to a Republican in at least eight decades.
Obama was trounced by 41 points by Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic Primary. Clinton’s numbers were boosted by a primary-eve election campaign stop to Logan Middle School.
So counting the two primaries and the two general elections, Mr. Obama has lost Logan County four times. He’s 0-for-4.
Mr. Romney grabbed 8,186 votes to Obama’s 3,461 in Logan County in Tuesday’s election. Romney outperformed McCain in Logan by 860 votes. By contrast, Obama had 2,412 fewer votes when you compare the 2008 and 2012 totals.
Logan County has a long tradition of voting Democratic in the presidential elections dating back to the 1800s.
Since Franklin Roosevelt’s 1932 alignment-changing election for the Democrats during the Great Depression, Logan County had voted Democrat in every election until Obama in 2008.
Most results were blowouts.
In 1996, Bill Clinton swept to a 55-point win over Republican Bob Dole. Clinton routed George H.W. Bush in 1992 by 47 percent in Logan County.
Despite Ronald Reagan’s 49-state landslide reelection victory in 1984, Democrat Walter Mondale won Logan County easily by 26 percent.
Lyndon Johnson crushed Republican Barry Goldwater by an astounding 64-point margin in 1964.
Democrat Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford by 53 points in Logan County in 1976 en route to the White House and won by 41 points over Reagan in 1980 despite losing in an Electoral College landslide.
The margin was even greater on Tuesday in Mingo County — another Judd county — where Obama lost to Gov. Romney by a 70-28 margin. The Texas convict beat the president by a stunning 20-point margin in this year’s Democratic Primary.
In neighboring Boone County, Obama lost 64-33 to Romney. Boone was one of the seven counties Obama carried over McCain in 2008.
The biggest disparity was in Wyoming County, which was won by Romney, 77-21. Obama also lost in Lincoln (64-33), Wayne (62-35), McDowell (64-34), Mercer (72-26) and Raleigh (72-27) counties.
Over in the coal producing counties of eastern Kentucky it was another red tidal wave as Romney won Pike County and the coal center city of Pikeville by a 75-24 margin.
The biggest blowout was in Martin County, another heavy coal producer, where Romney won by a stunning 83-15 margin.
Obama also lost the eastern Kentucky counties of Floyd (66-32), Letcher (78-19), Johnson (79-19) and Lawrence (71-27).
Mr. Obama only carried one reliably blue eastern Kentucky county, Elliott, by a 49-47 margin — a mere 60-vote differential.
Down in southwest Virginia, Romney beat Obama in the coal counties of Buchanan (67-32), Dickenson (62-36), Wise (74-25), Lee (71-27), Russell (68-31), Scott (75-24), Washington (71-28) and Tazewell (78-21).
Romney carried West Virginia (62-36) and Kentucky (61-38) easily but lost the battleground state of Virginia (51-48). Obama ran strong in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C. and took the Old Dominion state for the second straight presidential election.
As of Wednesday night, Obama had a 303-206 lead in the Electoral College as Florida was still undecided. It is increasingly likely the president will carry the state and grab another 29 electoral votes, bringing his number up to 332. With nearly 100 percent of the precincts reporting, Obama was leading Romney by a narrow 50,000-vote margin out of more than eight million cast. Many provisional ballots were still being counted on Thursday, particularly in south Florida around the Miami area.
Nationally, Obama beat Romney 50-48 percent. Obama may reach 51 percent by the time all of the ballots are counted. By contrast, Obama’s margin over McCain in 2008 was 53-46.
With still a few absentee and provisional ballots left to be counted, Obama so far has 59,127,919 votes nationally in the popular vote total compared to 56,461,412 for Romney.
Obama’s popular vote totals are down more than 10 million from the “Blue Wave” election of 2008. Romney, however, grabbed 3 million less votes than McCain did four years ago. A reported 3 million registered Republican voters stayed home and did not vote.
Romney was only able to take back two Obama states from ‘08 — Indiana and North Carolina — and also picked up one electoral vote from Nebraska’s Omaha-area that went blue the last time. Nebraska and Maine are the only two states which distribute its electoral votes by congressional district.
Romney warned of Obama’s “War on Coal” during the campaign.
“By the way, I like coal. I’m going to make sure we can continue to burn clean coal,” Romney told Obama in one of the debates. “People in the coal industry feel like it’s getting crushed by your policies.”
Less than 24 hours after the election there were indications the Obama administration might further crack down on coal by imposing carbon taxes and tighter emission standards by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Obama is reportedly selling it as a way to cut the budget deficit, according to Bloomberg.
A combination of tighter EPA regulations by the Obama administration, mine permit restrictions and cheap natural gas has led to the decline of coal and coal related jobs essential to the economy of the mid-Appalachian region.
The EPA has revoked the coal mining permit for Arch Coal’s Spruce Mine No. 1 in Logan County — a “shovel-ready” operation which would have employed 215 miners and 300 additional jobs in support services.
The drop off in coal production has been sharp. Last year, about 15 percent less coal was mined compared to the several years prior, said Carol Raulston, a spokeswoman with the National Mining Association, which represents the coal industry.
Starting in 2015, a rule that tightens the amount of mercury coal plants can emit will reportedly kick in. Other regulations govern mountain-top mining. Both will make coal production and operating coal-fired power plants more expensive and will most likely lead to further coal-fire plant shutdowns, higher energy costs and even more layoffs, critics say.
Obama told the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle on Jan. 17, 2008 of his plans in regards to coal. He said, “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted. That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodisel and other alternative energy approaches. The only thing I’ve said with respect to coal, I haven’t been some coal booster. What I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as an ideological matter as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it.”
West Virginia is the second largest coal-producing state in the country behind Wyoming and accounts for about 15 percent of all coal production in the United States. Coal produces about 50 percent of America’s energy needs.
Obama’s reelection signaled bad news in stock market trading on Wednesday as shares of U.S. coal companies plunged. Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources ended trade down more than 12 percent, while Peabody Energy closed 9.6 percent lower.
The following are Logan County presidential election statistics as provided by Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. The link is: uselectionatlas.org.
Results since 1960:
2012: Mitt Romney (R) 69%
Barack Obama (D) 29%
STATE WINNER: Romney 62-36
2008: John McCain (R) 55%
Barack Obama (D) 44%
STATE WINNER: McCain 56-43
2004: John Kerry (D) 53%
George W. Bush (R) 47%
STATE WINNER: Bush 56-43
2000: Al Gore (D) 62%
George W. Bush (R) 37%
Ralph Nader (I) 1%
STATE WINNER: Bush 52-46
1996: Bill Clinton (D) 72%
Bob Dole (R) 17%
Ross Perot (Reform) 10%
STATE WINNER: Clinton 52-37-11
1992: Bill Clinton (D) 68%
George H.W. Bush (R) 21%
Ross Perot (United We Stand/Independent) 11%
STATE WINNER: Clinton 48-35-16
1988: Michael Dukakis (D) 73%
George H.W. Bush (R) 27%
STATE WINNER: Dukakis 52-47
1984: Walter Mondale (D) 63%
Ronald Reagan (R) 37%
STATE WINNER: Reagan 55-45
1980: Jimmy Carter (D) 69%
Ronald Reagan (R) 28%
John Anderson (I) 2%
STATE WINNER: Carter 50-45-4
1976: Jimmy Carter (D) 76%
Gerald Ford (R) 23%
STATE WINNER: Carter 58-42
1972: George McGovern (D) 51%
Richard Nixon (R) 49%
STATE WINNER: Nixon 64-46
1968: Hubert H. Humphrey (D) 67%
Richard Nixon (R) 23%
George Wallace (American Independent Party) 9%
STATE WINNER: Humphrey 50-41-9
1964: Lyndon B. Johnson (D) 82%
Barry Goldwater (R) 18%
STATE WINNER: Johnson 68-32
1960: John F. Kennedy (D) 68%
Richard Nixon (R) 32%
STATE WINNER: Kennedy 53-47