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.