Voters in Appalachian coal country will not soon forget that Democrat Hillary Clinton told an Ohio audience in March that she would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”
“It was a devastating thing for her to say,” said Betty Dolan, whose diner in this mountain hamlet offers daily testament to the ravages that mining’s demise has visited upon families whose livelihood depends on coal.
Mine closures, bankruptcies and layoffs are staples of lunchtime conversation for those who have not fled town in search of work. Like many fellow Democrats in the region, Dolan, 73, favors Republican Donald Trump for president, however rude he might seem to the proprietor of a no-frills restaurant known for its graham cracker pie. “I’m going to go for the person who wants coal,” she said.
With a Trump-Clinton contest in November now all but certain, the importance of West Virginia’s primaries Tuesday has diminished. But the clash over coal, climate change and jobs as the campaign passed through Appalachia foreshadows potential trouble ahead for Clinton.
Although West Virginia is solidly Republican for the general election, the adjacent battleground states of Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania include Appalachian regions where the mining jobs that Trump vows to save are the linchpin of local economies.
Clinton’s bungled remarks on coal’s grim future — “I misspoke,” she conceded last week — opened the way for Trump to strengthen his bonds with the voters she offended. “That’s a tough one to explain, wouldn’t you say?” Trump asked cheering supporters Thursday at a rally in Charleston, W.Va.
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