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That Mitt Romney ad attacking President Obama for supposedly being an enemy of coal is drawing a lot of attention, but maybe not for the reason Romney would have chosen. The Romney ad's backdrop of coal miners whose boss made attendance at a Romney event mandatory and unpaid is drawing the headlines—and crucially, the Ohio headlines.
Coverage of just how those miners came to be standing behind Romney has stretched from San Franciso to Chicago to Politico and Huffington Post. The Chicago Tribune's headline writers may need a reminder of what "allegedly" means—if the miners say attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, and the boss acknowledges they were told that, there's no "allegedly" in their being forced to attend unless you want to split hairs, as the mine boss does, to draw a distinction between mandatory and forced. But Neela Banerjee's story leaves no doubt what happened:
Murray closed the mine the day of the rally, saying it was necessary for security and safety, then docked miners their pay for those hours. Asked by WWVA radio’s Blomquist about the allegations, Murray Chief Operating Officer Robert Moore said, somewhat confusingly, "Attendance was mandatory but no one was forced to attend the event."
And any worker reading that knows what it means when your boss—especially at a company so ruthlessly careless of its workers' lives as Murray Energy—tells you something is "mandatory."
But maybe the most significant coverage of the miners' mandatory presence in Romney's ad has come in Ohio, where the ad is running. The Columbus Dispatch not only hit the story Wednesday, it devoted several paragraphs of a story on Romney's campaign swing through the state with Paul Ryan to the miners—not the local coverage of his big campaign focus on Ohio Romney would want. The Cleveland Plain Dealer, too, made the mandatory miners a focus of its article on Romney's ads. And it appears that at least a half dozen local news stations and sites around Ohio have picked up an Associated Press story noting that the AFL-CIO is asking for an investigation into the mine closing for the Romney rally. (The SEIU has similarly called for an investigation into possible wage and hours law violations.)
Mitt Romney was trying to reach Ohio voters with this ad. The bad news for him is, the truth about the ad is also reaching Ohio voters.