Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Clintons have lost Appalachia to Trump; Hillary apologizes to laid-off coal miner for jobs remark

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is not enjoying the same success in Kentucky and West Virginia her husband Bill Clinton did when he ran for president in 1992 and 1996, Lisa Lerer reports for The Associated Press. The two states—West Virginia's primary is May 10, Kentucky's May 17—favor Donald Trump, especially in the coalfields. Hillary Clinton's own aides "say she’s unlikely to win either Kentucky or West Virginia in the primaries later this month or the general election next fall." (Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by F. Brian Ferguson: Hillary Clinton at a roundtable discussion in Williamson, W.Va.)

Hillary Clinton's unwelcome reception in Eastern Kentucky this week "marks a striking political shift for the Clintons, who’ve long staked their electoral fortunes on working class white voters," Lerer writes. "Her husband won the White House in 1992 by wooing Southern swing voters in places such as Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee, and Hillary Clinton swept all three states in her primary run in 2008 against then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. Eight years later, Trump’s connection with those voters could pose a threat to Clinton not only in the coal mining communities of Appalachia she visited on Monday, but also in parts of the Rust Belt and upper Midwest hit hard by the decline of domestic manufacturing."

Lerer adds, "Democrats have lost support in Appalachia as the region has shed jobs in industries such as coal mining and as union membership has declined, said Democratic strategist Dave Saunders. It’s a shift on which Trump has capitalized." Saunders told her, “We’re in a new age of economic populism. Trump: he’s got the right message and he delivers it properly.” Democrats also haven't been helped by supporting gun control and gay marriage, two issues largely unpopular in rural areas of Kentucky and West Virginia. Saunders told Lerer, "In those areas it has become culturally unacceptable for a white male to admit he’s a Democrat.”

Clinton didn't do much to help herself in Central Appalachia when during a March CNN interview, she said in response to how her policies would benefit poor white people in Southern states, "We're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business." While that remark was taken out of context—she followed it by saying '"And we’re going to make it clear that we don’t want to forget those people"—Republicans jumped on the first part of the statement.

On Monday Clinton met laid-off West Virginia coal miner, Bo Copley, one of many who was offended by the statement, David Gutman reports for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Copley, who handed Clinton a picture of his three children during a roundtable discussion in Williamson that was met by protesters, and told Clinton, “The reason you hear those people out there is because, when you make comments that you’re going to put a lot of coal miners out of jobs, these are the people you’re affecting. That’s my family.”

Clinton, who apologized for the comment, told Copley, "What I said was totally out of context from what I meant, because I have been talking about helping coal country for a long time. What I was saying is the way things are going now, we will continue to lose jobs. I can’t promise miracles. We are going to do whatever we can to help the people here in West Virginia who deserve the gratitude of our country for everything that you have done over so many decades.”

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