Tag Archives: war on coal

Ohio in Focus

Ohio is where all the action is right now and Maggie Haberman at Politico has the five factors that may swing the Buckeye State for Romney:

[T]here are five key ingredients required for a Romney win in a state that presents the GOP nominee’s easiest and surest path to the White House. Much as the contest between President George W. Bush and challenger John Kerry hinged on specific factors in Ohio, the 2012 contest boils down to some very basic old-fashioned Ohio politics. Below are POLITICO’S five things that, according to longtime operatives familiar with the state, must happen for Romney to capture Ohio:

1. Win the Columbus media market

It reaches 19 of Ohio’s 88 counties, and Obama was the first Democrat in decades to carry the Columbus media market when he won in 2008. Obama won this area by just under 3 points in 2008…Obama and John McCain split the state’s two other large media markets in 2008 — Cleveland went for Obama and Cincinnati for McCain. But Columbus is the main battleground region now, and it shows. The central Ohio area has seen well more than 20,000 so far, according to media trackers — far outpacing the number that aired in the 2004 presidential race. Romney is now on par with Obama in terms of ad spending in the state, but was heavily outgunned for a long time. Romney also needed to reach parity with Obama on the airwaves not just in terms of raw dollars spent, but amount of ads. In the meantime, both Romney and Paul Ryan plan to appear in the state more than 15 times combined before election day.

2. Take back GOP-leaning suburban voters

It’s not enough for Romney to be on air heavily — he also needs to tweak his sales pitch. The GOP nominee has had to adjust his ad strategy so that it’s a softer sell for women and suburban voters, including those who tend to lean Republican in a state where there’s no party registration and who Obama captured in 2008 to strong effect. In North Canton, Ohio on Friday night, Romney’s pitch to women was part of his standard stump, but was clear nonetheless. Romney talked about school choice and education, an issue that tests well with suburban women, many of whom were on hand to hear the GOP nominee speak. A striking fact of the 2012 cycle has been the absence of Ann Romney in heavy rotation in advertising. Mrs. Romney appears at the end of the ads in the disclaimer photo alongside her husband, but she has not been a central focus (though she has stumped in swing states frequently for her husband). [A]n important bellwether to watch is Stark County, just south of the Cleveland area. It’s gone for the winner in every presidential election the last six times, except for one — the 2004 Bush-Kerry race, when the Democrat won it by less than two points.

3. Go for the coal

Romney’s campaign is betting that the electorate will look more like 2004 than 2008 — so it’s natural that the goal would be to shoot for Bush’s margins of eight years ago. [F]ocus on the coal industry in southeast Ohio, where the Obama administration’s policies are often described as the “war on coal.”

4. Independents’ day

Winning independents is something Romney needs to do everywhere, but in Ohio the indie factor is even more crucial — he must have a very strong showing with them. The silver lining for the Romney campaign, which it cites often, is that recent polling shows them winning independents in basically every survey, even ones where he isn’t winning overall. Obama had an edge with this group in 2008, but it’s more of a battle this time.

5. The great ‘Let it Go Bankrupt’ issue

If there is any issue that Democrats believe helps them above all, it’s the auto bailout. And if there is any issue that Romney’s campaign is clearly defensive over, it’s the auto bailout. Many Ohioans work in the auto industry and benefited from the Obama administration’s decision to bail out the auto industry — something Romney was against (though Romney states he was for a managed bankruptcy). Both of the campaigns are using the issue to their benefit. Just look at their statements recently — Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, an uber-surrogate for Romney this cycle, has accused Obama of making false claims about the bailout during one of the presidential debates. Portman penned an op-ed piece on the topic this week in a local Ohio paper. And the Romney campaign has gone to great lengths to highlight the case of Delphi, an auto parts plant that shuttered amid the bailout (the Obama campaign disputes the details).

The War on Coal

The coal industry has been a political battleground ever since then-candidate Obama said he would implement a cap-and-trade program that would bankrupt anyone who started a new coal-powered plant:

[W]e would put a cap-and-trade system in place that is more — that is as aggressive if not more aggressive than anybody else’s out there … 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.

This issue has continued to dog the President as his EPA policies stifle the coal industry as energy prices sky-rocket and jobs are harder to find in these regions The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the politics of coal in this election:

Coal has improbably risen to become one of the top issues of the presidential campaign, with dueling ads about coal in swing states and attacks by each candidate on the other’s position. The battle is escalating even though coal employment is just a shadow of what it was a few decades ago and its use in power generation is steadily declining, from 48% of U.S. electricity in 2008 to 38% in the 12 months ended July 2012. The industry retains outsize importance in part because of its operations in the contested states of Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The candidates have turned coal into a linchpin in their different visions of America’s energy future. Mr. Romney’s energy plan calls for large increases in domestic production of fossil fuels, including coal, while seeking to roll back environmental regulations.

Tricky politics

The fight over coal is tricky for both men. As governor, Mr. Romney championed a regional program to cap emissions of greenhouse gases, which would have hurt the coal industry. But he later abandoned the program, during his first presidential run. For Democrats, coal is even more contentious. Some conservative Democrats, especially in the upper Midwest, fear the decline of the coal industry will lead to higher electricity prices. Those worries led Senate Democrats to scuttle a bill in Congress in 2010 that would have capped greenhouse-gas emissions. Mr. Obama has defended multibillion-dollar investments in “clean coal,” even though many of his supporters who have concerns about the environmental adamantly oppose any federal support for coal. The Obama campaign says coal-industry employment has risen 10% in Ohio since 2008, a message those supporters are loath to hear.

Stabilizing constituency

The U.S. has about 88,000 coal miners, according to government figures, down from more than 700,000 in the 1920s, but up from 75,000 a decade ago.

Natural gas threat

The greatest difference between the candidates comes in environmental rules targeting greenhouse gases and mercury emissions, which fall most heavily on coal-fired plants. Mr. Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency has aggressively pursued the rules, while Mr. Romney says they amount to a death sentence for coal-fired plants. Energy analysts say a bigger factor is the increase of abundant and cheap natural gas in the U.S. Demand for coal is growing elsewhere globally, though, which is one reason employment in the industry has notched up in recent years despite coal’s slipping rank among power sources. The U.S. has become a major supplier of coal to countries including China, India, Brazil, the Netherlands and Britain. The U.S. has exported more coal so far this year than in all of 2009, and is on pace for a record level of coal exports.

Will ‘Obama’s Wars’ Deliver Pennsylvania for Romney?

Conservative columnist Colin Hanna is a Pennsylvania native and active in the Tea Party movement. He pens a column in the Philadelphia Inquirer arguing that each of four domestic policies antagonistic towards Pennsylvania voters (among others) could each shave 1-2 points off Obama’s poll lead on election day. If that happens, Pennsylvania flips to Romney and all but seals the Presidency for him:

Can Romney really win the state? Pennsylvania hasn’t gone to a Republican presidential candidate since 1988. I don’t think the answer lies in the fine points that separate the polls. All show Romney slightly behind, but well within striking distance and closing ground. I think the answer lies in how carefully the Romney campaign studies our state, and whether it capitalizes on four areas of vulnerability for Obama in Pennsylvania in 2012 that were not present to anything near the same degree in 2008. They are four of what Republicans call “Obama’s Wars.”

The War on Religious Freedom.
That’s the way pro-life voters, especially Catholics, characterize the Obama administration’s mandate that all employers must provide coverage for sterilization and abortifacients, in addition to contraceptives. The relevance to Pennsylvania is that Roman Catholics compose up to 36 percent of voter turnout, one of the highest in the nation, and Catholic bishops are fully engaged in opposing this intrusion of the federal government into matters of faith. Even though the majority of Catholics are habitual Democrats, it’s likely the church’s opposition to Obama’s abortion and gay-marriage agendas will move some of them to the Romney-Ryan ticket. Vice President Biden’s snarky disdain for fellow Catholic Paul Ryan in Thursday’s debate may also move some Catholic swing votes to the Republican ticket.

The War on Coal. Obama’s famous line in the 2008 campaign that he would create policies that would “shut down coal plants” is remembered and, if anything, taken more seriously in 2012 than it was then. In Pennsylvania’s coal country, one of the most popular political items this year is an independently produced yard sign that reads “Stop the War on Coal – Fire Obama.” In September, the U.S. House of Representatives put a national spotlight on the issue with its passage of the “Stop the War on Coal Act.” Especially in the context of today’s prolonged economic woes, the Obama hostility to coal may be politically toxic in the areas of Pennsylvania in which coal is still king.

The War on Fracking. Despite Obama’s occasional positive comments about hydraulic fracturing offering the promise of abundant domestic energy, most of those in the industry are bracing themselves for the Interior Department’s long-awaited release of restrictive guidelines on the practice, now postponed until year’s end – conveniently after the election. The 70,000 or more Pennsylvanians now working as a direct result of hydraulic fracturing of the Marcellus Shale, and the 200,000 or so indirectly employed as a result of that industry, are much more enthusiastic about Romney’s energy policies than Obama’s.

The War on Guns. Many gun owners are convinced one political motivation of the Fast and Furious gun-running program was to shock Americans into thinking the trafficking of U.S. guns into Mexico was a serious problem jeopardizing public safety, and thus build public support for gun control. The president’s half-hearted support for guns used for hunting and target shooting betrays either an ignorance of or an outright hostility to the real purpose of the Second Amendment. That amendment is not about hunting; it’s about self-protection and the ability of the citizenry to resist an oppressive government. Very few political observers outside our state recognize how potent the pro-gun forces are in Pennsylvania. One simple statistic should prove the point: Pennsylvania leads the nation in National Rifle Association memberships.

Each of these “wars” could cost the president 1 to 2 points of his 2008 support in Pennsylvania. Will the Romney campaign devote the time and resources necessary to make these arguments? It will if it wants to win the election, because, if Romney wins Pennsylvania, there is almost no plausible way for Obama to win reelection.

The Debate Game-Changer in Pennsylvania

Only the staunchest of partisans refused to admit that Pennsylvania was trending strongly towards Obama among the Battleground States.  The reality was while Romney almost certainly will outperform John McCain in 2008, it was simply too much ground to make up across a diverse and changing state.  That all may have changed when Mitt Romney announced his presence with authority in the recent debate.  Ruth-Ann Dailey at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette takes a look at the sudden sea change in Romney Pennsylvania campaign offices as well as across the state:

Days before besting President Barack Obama in their first debate, Republican candidate Mitt Romney was telling a cheering crowd in Wayne, Pa., “We’re going to win Pennsylvania,” while his aides were admitting to reporters that they probably could not. The day after the debate, the 24 Romney offices throughout Pennsylvania fielded 100 new volunteers and had another 200 re-up for new shifts, according to campaign staff. “The Dems seem to think they’ve had [this state] in their pockets for a long time,” said Billy Pitman, the Romney campaign’s state spokesman, “but we’ve got an incredible ground game.

Disaffected 2008 Obama supporters

Whether it’s “incredible” or not, the dissatisfied former Obama voters that the new Romney volunteers will be targeting have actually been out there for two years or more, their numbers growing and — inexplicably, to some — overlooked. Larry Taylor is one of them. A coal miner and registered Democrat in Greene County, he paused a few days ago at an Emerald Mine portal to talk politics before his shift began. Yes, he voted for President Obama in 2008, but in this year’s primary, he left the presidential slot blank. Yes, that was on purpose. No, he won’t be voting for Mr. Obama come November.

The “undervote”

There are thousands of Democrats like him across the commonwealth. They are part of the “undervote” — primary voters who failed or declined, for whatever reason, to vote for their own party’s unopposed incumbent. Some write in another candidate’s name; others leave that section blank, since there’s no real contest, or because they intend, like Larry Taylor, to announce a resounding “no.” In any given year, says Keegan Gibson, managing editor of PoliticsPA.com, the undervote in a statewide or national race might range “from 15 to 23 percent — but usually it’s fairly consistent in most counties.” This year was different. President Obama’s undervote ranged widely — from single digits in Philadelphia, Delaware and Chester counties to the mid-40s in north-central and southwestern Pennsylvania. In 37 counties his undervote was above 25 percent, and in 16 of those, it topped 35 percent.

War on coal

A quick look at a state map reveals a substantial overlap between counties where the undervote was high and counties where the coal and natural gas industries are strong. The nearest to Pittsburgh is Greene County, where hundreds, even thousands, of lawn signs read, “Stop the War on Coal — Fire Obama.” Here, 3,863 (of 14,318) registered Democrats voted in the spring primary, but only 2,247 voted for President Obama — a 42 percent undervote. By contrast, the Greene County undervote for the unopposed Eugene DePasquale (for auditor general) and Rob McCord (for state treasurer) was only 30 percent. And in 2006, according to PoliticsPA, Gov. Ed Rendell’s undervote was 26 percent.

Ground game and turnout

[I]t’s another question whether these disaffected Democrats in the state’s less populated areas are numerous enough to offset the president’s much stronger support in its big cities. It all comes down to voter turnout — and each campaign’s “ground game.” The Obama website lists 45 offices statewide; Romney has 24. Back in November 2008, Greene County turnout was 64 percent; John McCain won here by 60 votes. The much-reviled “war on coal” has only reduced President Obama’s support.

Not single issue voters

At a fast-food spot near the interstate, a state employee who doesn’t want her name made public says the president lost her vote with “Obamacare.” “To me, it’s socialist — forcing people to do something they can’t afford.” At Hot Rod’s, a busy Waynesburg barbecue spot, Democrat Jeff Taylor, a factory worker and Desert Storm vet who voted for Mr. Obama in 2008, now describes himself as “on the fence” and said, “I don’t think his policies are working, but it seems like it doesn’t matter who’s in there.” Back at the Emerald Mine portal, only one of the dozen registered Democrats I interviewed says he still supports the president — and that’s because he figures the mining jobs lost to oppressive coal regulations won’t be any greater than those lost to the “outsourcing” he expects in a Romney economy.

Changing times

I stopped one man wearing an Iraq War ballcap, in a pickup with a Marine Corps window decal. I start my questions: Are you a registered Democrat? He smiles. “I was until last week.” Maybe Pennsylvania is in play.

Romney Rally in Abingdon, Virginia Today (Oct 5) 11am

Mitt Romney doubles down in Virginia after last night’s monster rally before heading to Florida:

Rally with Mitt Romney in Abingdon

When: 11:00am
Where: Carter Machinery, 18471 Spring Creek Rd, Abingdon, VA 24202

You’re Invited to a Coal Country Event with   Mitt Romney   Friday, October 5, 2012
Doors Open 9:00 AM | Event Begins 11:00 AM

*The first 250 attendees will receive a Romney-Ryan hard hat!*

All attendees will go through airport-like security and should bring as few personal items as possible.
No bags, sharp objects, umbrellas, liquids, or signs will be allowed in the venue. Cameras are permitted.

For questions, contact us at: TeamVA@mittromney.com | (757) 279-8253
For Important Campaign Updates: Text (VA) to GOMITT (466488)

Bankrupt — “War on Coal”

“War on Coal”

Hello Ohio, Pennsylvania and Colorado:

Obama Losing Another Constituency

You have to wonder some times how long segments of the public can take a beating from the president before switching their allegiance.  Wall Street has flipped from Obama to Romney since 2008 and Catholics are switching in droves this cycle as well.  Now we get word that even some unions are abandoning Obama:

After giving then-Sen. Barack Obama a full-throttled endorsement in the 2008 presidential election, the United Mine Workers of America has decided not to endorse either Obama or the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, in 2012. “As of right now, we’ve elected to stay out of this election,” said Mike Caputo, a UMWA official and a Democratic member of the West Virginia House of Delegates. “Our members right now have indicated to stay out of this race, and that’s why we’ve done that…. I don’t think quite frankly that coalfield folks are crazy about either candidate.” Both candidates are trying to prove otherwise to voters in coal-intensive swing states. Earlier this week the Obama campaign released in Ohio the first coal-issue ad of this cycle, claiming that Romney has flip-flopped his position on coal. The ad includes comments that Romney made as Massachusetts governor in 2003 standing in front of a coal plant, saying that he wouldn’t support jobs that kill people. For his part, Romney is claiming Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency is waging a war on coal with a slew of regulations.

“Hard core” Democrats

“It’s unusual,” he said during an interview at UMWA’s Fairmont office. Caputo, who describes himself as a “hard-core Democrat,” intends to vote for Obama. “I’m loyal to my party,” he said…But politically, the EPA is the culprit for the coal industry’s woes. Throughout Appalachia where Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia converge, the coal industry’s disgruntlement with Obama is plastered on yard signs and billboards. One billboard alongside a freeway near the Pennsylvania and West Virginia border said drivers were entering “The Obama administration’s no jobs zone.” The billboard was sponsored by a coal-industry group, the Federation for American Coal, Energy, and Security (FACES of Coal). Yard signs seen along back roads and throughout towns juxtapose the word “coal” with “fire Obama.” Labor groups almost always align with Democratic candidates, and Caputo said the UMWA would be very unlikely to endorse Romney given his record with the coal industry and his positions on labor issues.

You think maybe Obama’s “war on coal” might have something to do with this change of heart?

Pennsylvania Support for Obama: “Rotten Underneath”

Pennsylvania is probably one of the more controversial Battleground states this election cycle. Republicans spent enormous amounts of time, money and sweat into the state and fell short in 2004. The McCain campaign poured an incredible amount into the state and wasn’t even close on election day. The Romney campaign was not even going to compete in the state until Republican operatives and strangely enough prominent Democrats cried loudly that Pennsylvania was in play this election. Polls have been all over the place but always with Obama enjoying a solid, though single digit, lead. And months ago pundits were moving Pennsylvania out of the Battleground status before the general election even began. Funny how they are always eager to see a glass-half-empty view for Republican prospects but will claim Democrat competitiveness in states where they sometimes aren’t even competing (Missouri and Arizona).

All that said, Scott Conroy, takes an in-depth look at the state of play in the Keystone state and unearths rather intriguing nuggets in this Battleground state:

Though both sides are adept at putting the most favorable spin on their electoral prospects, strategists for the Obama and Romney campaigns largely agree on which so-called swing states are truly up for grabs and which ones clearly lean a particular way. But perhaps the most glaring exception to that broad consensus is Pennsylvania, where the two camps are working under widely divergent assessments of how the race is shaping up. “When you talk about Pennsylvania, the Obama campaign is going to roll their eyes,” said Romney’s political director, Rich Beeson. “They don’t know it, but it’s rotten underneath for them.

Pennsylvania flips the map

If Romney does capture Pennsylvania in 2012, one line of thinking goes, that result would all but certainly herald a national blowout for the Republican, so why bother investing seriously there when other swing states will make or break a close election? But Romney strategists envision what they say is a realistic scenario whereby the former Massachusetts governor loses one or two tossup states (where recent demographic shifts have created shaky terrain for a GOP presidential candidate) but more than makes up the difference by pulling off a Pennsylvania upset. For instance, Romney could negate potential losses in both Nevada and Colorado (whose combined electoral votes total 19) by winning the Keystone State’s 20 electoral votes.

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Obama EPA Drives Downsizing in Pennsylvania and Ohio

In a story that deserves a lot of national attention, two coal companies had large layoffs and specifically cited the antagonism of the Obama EPA driving the layoffs:

Two area coal companies announced layoffs Friday, saying weakened coal demand and an aggressive regulatory structure forced the idling of several mines. PBS Coals Inc. and its affiliate company, RoxCoal Inc., laid off about 225 workers as part of an immediate idling of some deep and surface mines in Somerset County. The company now employs 795 workers. In a statement, PBS President and CEO D. Lynn Shanks said foreign and domestic markets were seeing softened demand for coal.

“Additionally, the escalating costs and uncertainty generated by recently advanced EPA regulations and interpretations have created a challenging business climate for the entire coal industry,” he said in the statement.

The other Friday idling announcement, coming from the Ohio Valley Coal Co. of Alledonia, Ohio, also criticized costly government regulations, though in much harsher terms.Announcing the reduction of 29 jobs at its Powhatan No. 6 Mine in Belmont County, Ohio, General Manager Ronald Koontz attacked the Obama administration for a “‘war on coal seeking to destroy the coal industry and the jobs of our own employees and the livelihoods of their families.”

Obama’s “War on Coal”

CNN takes a look (complete with radio report) on the coal industry and how Obama’s EPA threatens to end the industry:

Amanda Sedgmer, mother of five and daughter of coal country, believes that in this presidential election, her way of life is at stake. “If you ask anybody in the coal industry what would happen if Obama is re-elected, they’d say the coal industry is done,” said Sedgmer, whose husband, Ryan, is a coal miner and whose family has depended on the industry for at least four generations. Sedgmer lives in Hopedale, Ohio, which sits on top of one of the state’s richest coal deposits. For nearly a century here, mining has been one of the few professions guaranteeing a good and consistent salary.

Plants closing

In the past two years, an increasing number of coal-powered electricity plants across the country have announced closures. Estimates vary, but banking and industry analysis firm Credit Suisse put expected and known closures for 2009-2012 at 111 plants, that’s one-fifth of the nation’s nearly 500 coal plants.

The war on coal

There are two main factors in the demise of those plants. First, the price of coal’s competitor, natural gas, is decreasing. At the same time, a new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency is pushing the price of coal up. That change, called the Maximum Achievable Control Technology, or MACT, rule requires that coal- and oil-fired power plants reduce pollutant emission rates significantly. The rule, which operates under the Clean Air Act, does not stipulate a lower level of carbon output. But by requiring lower mercury and other toxic emissions, it would reduce carbon as well. The EPA estimates this will result in some 1% of national electricity capacity shutting down, and a cost increase of about 3.7% in retail electricity. But those in coal country give much higher estimates. They believe if President Obama stays in office and the rule continues, it will mean the end of their industry.

Another rube self-identifies

Sedgmer voted for President Obama in 2008 and she is not a particular fan of Mitt Romney, but she’s voting for the Republican because she believes he is the only chance the coal industry and her community have to survive. Romney hopes all this concern helps him in the Buckeye swing state and in other coal communities. He has told crowds at campaign speeches that President Obama “sure doesn’t like coal.” The president has vigorously disagreed, saying he is for “clean coal.” Environmentalists believe the EPA rule and the increasing closures of coal plants are breakthroughs that are overdue and will do dramatic good.

Dwindling Rust Belt Counties Left Wanting

Michael Barone takes a deep-dive into the 33 counties that make up a strong but dwindling Democratic coalition. Obama desperately needs to keep this coalition intact if he is to win Ohio and Pennsylvania and Friday’s jobs report made this effort all the more difficult:

[With expectantly bad unemployment figures being released] Why did the president’s campaign schedule a two-day bus tour of northern Ohio and western Pennsylvania to coincide with the day the unemployment numbers were announced? Sure, Ohio and Pennsylvania are important states politically. They have 18 and 20 electoral votes, and Obama carried them in 2008 with 51 and 54 percent of the votes. [But] current polling shows Obama with only 46 percent in Ohio and 47 percent in Pennsylvania when paired against Mitt Romney.

This was deep blue territory

Obama’s bus tour was aimed at the historically Democratic Rust Belt territory. Since the United Steelworkers, United Auto Workers and United Rubber Workers organized the steel, auto and rubber factories on Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown and Toledo, this has been prime Democratic territory. Even in 1984, when Ronald Reagan was winning a 59 to 40 percent landslide, this Rust Belt — 19 counties of northern and eastern Ohio and 14 counties of western Pennsylvania — voted 52 to 47 percent for Walter Mondale. It was 12 points more Democratic than the national average. If these 33 counties had been a single state, they would have cast 19 electoral votes for Mondale, more than doubling the 13 he won from his native Minnesota and the District of Columbia.

Not your daddy’s rust belt

In the years since, the economy of the Rust Belt has changed. The biggest employers in Cleveland and Pittsburgh these days are not steel mills but hospital complexes. There has been considerable outmigration of young people, and from 1980 to 2010, the population of these 33 counties declined by 7 percent, while the national population increased by 36 percent. If they were a single state, they would have 14 electoral votes, down from 19 three decades ago.

Obama feeling its effects

The aging electorate of the Rust Belt remains Democratic, and these counties voted 56 to 42 percent for Barack Obama. But that means that they were only 3 percent more Democratic than the national average. The polling data suggests that Obama is not running as strong in the Rust Belt counties this year. The bus tour was undoubtedly aimed at pushing his numbers up.

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The Rust Belt May Save Obama Despite Himself

The Obama Administration touts an “All of the above” energy policy that doesn’t resonate well in the Rust Belt states in America. From spiking the Keystone Pipeline to his “war on coal”, Obama has often been frustrated in his attempts to defend these policies. However, Joel Kotkin in The Daily Beast takes a look at how Obama is playing in this part of America and thinks despite these policies he may still pull off a victory:

The industrial zone’s four key states—Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania—constitute the most critically contested territory in this year’s contest. Fifty-four electoral votes are at play here, with Pennsylvania’s 20 votes alone equaling all those at stake in the much-ballyhooed battleground of the Intermountain West (Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico).  The Midwest is also home to the two states with the biggest drops in unemployment over the past two years. Michigan leads the way with an almost five percentage point drop, while Ohio comes in second with a nearly three–point decline. in a row.

The return of manufacturing jobs

In the last two years the nation has added more than 400,000 manufacturing jobs, led by states in the upper Midwest. Between 2010 and 2011, Michigan led the nation by creating 25,000 new industrial jobs with a heady 5 percent growth rate second only to Oklahoma. Wisconsin came in second with 15,000 new positions, and a growth rate of more than 3 percent. These gains may not come to close to making up the losses suffered over the past decade, but the growth is encouraging. Manufacturing employment brings higher wages to regional economies. In the Cincinnati area, the average factory job pays $61,000 a year—$15,000 more than the city’s average wage. This creates an outsized impact on the rest of the economy, from housing and retail to demand for business services. There are already significant shortages of skilled workers such as welders and machinists.

Jobs for college grads

Midwestern employers are projecting an 18.5% jump—the largest of any region—in the number of college graduates that will be hired this year. The new industrial economy creates considerable demand for those who can fill STEM (science, technology, education, and mathematics related jobs). Between 2009 and 2011, Michigan enjoyed the second strongest rate of STEM growth in the nation, just behind Washington, D.C.

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Romney Sits Down with Ohio Reporter Obama Campaign Blows Off … Twice

In 2008, the Obama campaign seemed to be everywhere with his “hopey-changey” rhetoric and was unquestionable the media darling for journalists big and small.  But he bloom is off the rose and the Obama campaign doesn’t appear to have time for the little people in the journalistic world–even in hugely important areas of the country like Youngstown, Ohio. Reporter David Skolnick had a less-than-inspiring experience with the Obama campaign — getting effectively blown off twice –but was able to sit down one-on-one with the top dog on the GOP side.  Here is is explanation of the blow-offs and the personal attention from Mitt Romney:

So how did I end up in a place I had previously never heard of, stand in the pouring rain and then conduct an exclusive one-on-one face-to-face interview with Mitt Romney on Father’s Day? It was a combination of the fallout from my public complaints about being denied a few minutes with Vice President Joe Biden when he campaigned in Youngstown on May 16, a June 15 conference call with Biden and Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman that had the vice president get off the call before reporters could ask questions, social media, and a smart move by the Romney campaign.

Following the May 16 blow-off, the Obama campaign “tried” again:

Then on June 15, the President Barack Obama campaign organized a conference call for Ohio reporters with Biden and Columbus Mayor Coleman. The call started 35 minutes late, Biden spoke for 10 minutes — essentially reinforcing/repeating statements made a day early by the president during a Cleveland event — and jumped off the call when it came time for questions from reporters.

Romney reaches out:

That led to the Romney campaign emailing me Saturday to ask if I would be in Brunswick on Sunday. I told them I didn’t know where that is. It turns out it’s in Medina County, near Strongsville, and Romney was speaking at a rally there. That was followed by an invitation to speak for about 8 to 10 minutes with Romney after a rally. It helps Romney’s image — he’s accessible to local print media while Biden isn’t. After waiting a while inside, I had about nine minutes with Romney to ask questions. I had about 10 questions just in case, but knew there would be time for only a few. I ended up asking three questions on my list and one follow-up. The article gave insight into Romney’s thoughts on issues that impact our area. Look for an article this Sunday on Romney’s opinions of fracking and coal. The article in Monday’s newspaper was fair, according to local Democratic and Obama campaign officials.

Dog Fight in Pennsylvania

ABC News takes a look at the recent changes in Pennsylvania that made both campaigns sit-up and take notice:

Romney will make three stops in Pennsylvania on Saturday and this time the GOP thinks it can take the state and its 20 electoral votes. The presumptive nominee is sounding confident, telling a Philadelphia radio station this week, “We see Pennsylvania very much as being in play.” “We’re very early in the process,” Romney said.

Polls shake-up the race:

A Quinnipiac poll released this week showed President Obama ahead in the Keystone State by six points, 46% to 40%. That’s a slight decrease from the May Quinnipiac poll when Obama had an eight-point lead, 47% to 39%. That’s raising spirits in the GOP. So is this number: Voters in the state said Romney would do a better job on the economy, 49% to Obama’s 41%. The same poll revealed 45 percent think Romney would create more jobs; 43% picked Obama on that question. Romney leads on handling the economy and job creation with independent voters, probably the best sign for Republicans in the poll…”I don’t think anyone thinks we can carry Pennsylvania, I don’t think even Romney thinks we can win Pennsylvania; they’re not counting on it, but they’ll play here,” Gleason told the Morning Call. “We’re not asleep at the switch. We’ve been working on this for four years. This is the big one.”

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Who Thinks Democrats Will Have A Record Turnout? Franklin & Marshall Apparently (EDIT: Or Maybe not)

August 16, 2012 Update:  I hotly complained about the voter registration breakdown in this Franklin & Marshall poll which was D: 50, R: 37, I: 12. While I knew the difference between “party registration” and “party ID” I found it unthinkable that a 13% voter registration advantage for the Democrats.  I was wrong. My complaints were due to the Democrat party ID in 2008 was Dem: 44, Rep: 37, Ind: 18 of D +7 — a record year for Democrats, and up from D: 41, R: 39, I: 20 or D +2 in 2004.  My criticism of the party registration in the Franklin & Marshall poll was unfounded.  Democrats in Pennsylvania continue enjoy a party registration advantage exactly as Franklin & Marshall survey.  Maybe more Democrats will cross over in 2012 and maybe reduced Democrat enthusiasm for Obama will keep them home, but as it stands Franklin & Marshall’s methodology is correct.

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In a “Quick Hits” post Wednesday I linked to the Franklin & Marshall poll showing Obama with a commanding +12 point lead in Pennsylvania. Great news for Obama, right? Not so much it turns out. The internals in this poll tell a very different story such that despite the double digit lead, the poll should be of grave concern for the Obama campaign. Really.

A lot of things looked odd in the demographic breakdowns in the poll:

  • Despite the gender gap with men for Obama — he lost men by 1-point to McCain–in this poll he was beating Romney by +7
  • While most polls have Romney outpacing Obama on fixing the economy (or no worse than even), this poll has Obama up  +6
  • Among the all-important Independent voter, Obama leads by an incredible +22%

If those polling margins are accurate, not only will Obama win Pennsylvania, but he will probably win 400 electoral college votes.

Luckily for the Romney campaign, the oversampling of Democrats is so ludicrous it renders the Obama lead of +12 irrelevant as this poll fails in every way to reflect the likely turnout in November.

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Clean Energy a Winner for Romney — National Journal Survey

Despite a lot of rhetoric out of the White House regarding “all of the above” support for “clean energy” a National Journal Survey of Energy and Environment Insiders find that Mitt Romney is winning the messaging war 55% – 40% on this important swing state topic.

When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made a surprise campaign stop last week at the shuttered headquarters of solar-panel firm Solyndra, his campaign aimed to use the now-bankrupt company as an example of President Obama’s faulty investments in clean energy. Most of National Journal’s Energy & Environment Insiders think the strategy is working. Fifty-five percent of Insiders say that the GOP and Romney campaign strategy to criticize Obama for backing the California solar firm is more effective than the Obama campaign’s response that Romney would cede the clean-energy space to countries like China. The whole scandal is just the perfect punching bag for the campaign, Insiders said. “The optics of Solyndra are too ugly for most voters to not buy some level of malfeasance,” said one Insider.

The survey of 50 policy Insiders covers clean energy, offshore drilling , natural gas drilling/fracking regulations, and subsidies for oil and gas companies. While voters across the country express strong opinions on these issues, they are uniquely important in Battleground states like Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Colorado.

Natural gas drilling/fracking seemed to be an unusually potent issue for the Republicans:

  • “In battleground states like Ohio, Colorado, and Pennsylvania, voters interested in job creation will want to know if the President’s agencies are trying to stop hydraulic fracturing, a key driver of the oil and gas boom.”
  • “Natural gas is a game changer for the economy and for energy independence.  While the White House is attempting to appear supportive of the industry, their actions and their anti fracking allies speak louder. THis could be a very good issue for Republicans.”
  • “The left will zero-in on natural gas export issues.  Sierra Club has already started to do so.  Why?  Because the ability to export gas means more production (fracking) domestcially.”

Obama’s war on coal also clearly strikes a nerve:

  • “In the states that really matter, it will be the Obama Administration’s war on coal.  Look at the top five battleground states — Ohio, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana.  Coal is important in all but Florida, and we’ll be hearing a lot about the President’s war on coal in these states.”
  • “Vast majority of focus will be on Keystone XL & Solyndra with POTUS on defense. With oil & gas driving the economy right now (especially in battleground states like CO, OH, PA) there’s not going to be much focus on “clean” energy.”
  • “Keystone. The clear jobs message here will make this an issue the President will want to make go away.”