FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The coal industry is shedding thousands of jobs and facing the government's most severe crackdown on carbon emissions yet. But king coal still flexes its political muscle in Kentucky and West Virginia.
That's where Republicans and even Democrats try to say they are more pro-coal than their opponent, cozying up to the industry and slamming President Barack Obama.
In other coal-producing areas such as Ohio and Virginia, Democrats have been able to win even with the industry against them. That's not an option for politicians in the heart of Appalachia, where very little else drives the economy.
Many people here still cling to coal as a source of work and cultural pride, so anyone running for office has to seek the mantle of coal savior, or at least defender.
Mattise reported from Charleston, W.Va. Associated Press reporter Charles Babington contributed from Washington.