FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, a longtime advocate for the mining industry, began running a radio ad in 35 coal-producing counties Tuesday to decry what he describes as the Obama administration's "war on coal."
Making coal a political issue is a strategy that the GOP has used for years to win voters in Kentucky. And it has worked. President Barack Obama, viewed as anti-coal in the state, took a shellacking in Kentucky's mining regions in both of his presidential races.
"Coal is one of the economic engines of our state," McConnell says in the radio spot. "In some parts of the commonwealth, coal is a proud way of life that binds together generations. But President Obama and his allies view coal as a threat to their liberal ideology and green energy policies cooked up in Washington."
McConnell, who is seeking re-election to a sixth term, declares in the 1-minute radio spot that "the war on coal is also a war on Kentucky."
Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced earlier this month that she would run against McConnell next year. She isn't mentioned in the radio spot.
Republicans traditionally get strong support in Kentucky's coalfields, but Grimes proved popular there in her race for secretary of state from rank-and-file miners and from wealthy mine operators. She received the endorsement of the United Mine Workers of America and collected maximum contributions from some of the most influential leaders in Kentucky's mining industry, including Alliance Coal Chief Executive Officer Joe Craft and more than a dozen of his subordinates.
Even Heath Lovell, a mine executive who played a pivotal role in defeating former Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler last year by appearing in TV ads attacking him, made a maximum $1,000 contribution to Grimes in 2011.
"She has proven that she has strong support in eastern and western Kentucky," said Grimes political adviser Jonathan Hurst. "Alison Lundergan Grimes will always put the people of Kentucky first. She is not afraid to stand up to both parties and do what's right for the people of Kentucky. It should be no surprise that Sen. McConnell has to spend Washington insiders' money to try misleader Kentuckians."
Targeting an early radio ad in the coalfields shows that McConnell isn't taking the mining region for granted. He is spending "in the low five figures" to run the radio ad there for a week.
"I've fought President Obama's job-killing agenda every step of the way, and with Kentucky's economic future at stake, I won't stop now." McConnell says in the ad.