Last night, I was watching Chris Matthews reporting on the results from the primary race for the U.S Senate in Kentucky. While I think Chris means well in his reporting on this important race, I am convinced that most of the media personalities outside of Kentucky do not know what they are talking about when it comes to Kentucky politics, especially on some topics like coal mining.
I heard a lot of talk about how important coal is to the Kentucky economy. Coal is supposedly, "the economic engine" of Kentucky, and protecting coal is of primary importance to Kentucky voters; this is not entirely correct.
Since 1983, Kentucky has been losing jobs linked to the coal industry. In the last couple of years alone, Eastern Kentucky has lost another 5,000 coal mining jobs. So I would hardly call coal an economic engine for Kentucky.
Chuck Todd and others pointed out that some Eastern Kentucky counties who used to vote for Democrats now vote Republican because of the coal issue. The driving force, according to Todd and others, is a "siege mentality" has set in among voters in Eastern Kentucky. And it does seem that this is the case.
However, the results from the above poll conflict with another poll that indicates the locals in Eastern Kentucky areagainst mountain top removal for coal mining. What seems not to have been examined in the poll on coal mining attitudes in Harlan and Letcher Counties was the use of the phrase "natural resources" and nothing about mountain top removal. Also, the coal industry has been very active in waging a public relations campaign to convince the voters in Eastern Kentucky that all their problems are because of Obama and the EPA, while other reports indicate that the main reasons for the loss of coal mining jobs is economic and not because of regulatory actions from the government.
So is the politics of coal in Kentucky as straight forward as pundits would have you think? It can be, if Grimes and the other Democrats fail to point out that McConnell has been a U.S. Senator during the decline of the coal industry jobs in Kentucky. So I can't believe that the "war on coal" is such a godsend to Mitch McConnell.
Will it be a tough sell for Grimes in Eastern Kentucky? Yes, but it is not just the phony war on coal that will make it tough for her. There are a number of other factors in play in Kentucky, but simplifying the politics of Kentucky all down to coal is wrong.