In Appalachian coal country, Romney is now viewed with nearly as much suspicion as Obama -- and that may be the story of the 2012 election.
MORRISTOWN, Ohio -- This ought to be the place where President Obama's reelection hopes went to die.
In the coal-mining country of Southeastern Ohio, half an hour from the West Virginia border, I expected to find a potent stew of anti-Obama sentiment. This area is the home of the downtrodden Appalachian whites who've never much trusted the president -- but now, thanks to cultural resentments and the coal industry's decline, they're practically in open revolt. Just look at the results of the West Virginia presidential primary: rather than pull the lever for Obama, nearly 40 percent of the state's Democrats cast votes instead for an unknown Texas prison inmate, Keith Judd, who'd managed to get his name on the ballot. As one Democratic elected official told me darkly, this part of the state is "the northernmost extension of the Confederacy."
But in the day I spent criscrossing this rolling green landscape, it wasn't that simple.
I found Fred Chafin in his driveway, leaning against a red pickup truck and sipping a can of Budweiser under a "Dale Earnhardt Jr. Boulevard" sign. "I wish there was somebody else to vote for -- maybe Hillary," the 51-year-old maintenance man said with a laugh. "I'm not really a Republican or a Democrat. I don't know too much about Romney. But if he's for the rich to get richer, I'm not for that."