BELMONT, Ohio--Some 1,100 people braved cold rain and wind atop a southeast Ohio hilltop as the man who wants to be the nation's next vice president focused on energy and the coal jobs that carry the region.
“Gas prices have doubled since President Obama was elected,'' Paul Ryan said. “We are losing thousands of coal jobs. We have a hundred coal plants scheduled to close, and thousands more jobs are on the chopping block.''
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's strategy to capture the must-win state of Ohio counts on a heavy turnout in largely rural southeast Ohio, coal country. One large sign on the road leading to the Valley View Campgrounds read: “Save Eastern Ohio: Fire Obama.'' The words “Eastern Ohio'' were painted over with “USA.''
Most of the region went for Republican John McCain four years ago.
The digital national debt tote board and large digital video screen that accompany Mr. Ryan at many of his campaign events seemed out of place next to the large hilltop white-washed barn.
The rain seemed to stop just as Mr. Ryan, in a water-resistant jacket, took to the stage for a speech that lasted less than 15 minutes. He had country musician Ricky Skaggs as an opening act.
“The one thing Belmont County can do if you head to early voting at the Belmont County Board of Elections...is elect a man named Mitt Romney who will end this war on coal and allow us to keep these good-paying jobs,'' Mr. Ryan told the crowd.
Mr. Ryan has seemingly become the go-to guy for Ohio. He's been in Ohio much of the week. The top of the ticket hasn't been back to the Buckeye State since last weekend, heading instead after his second debate for other battlegrounds, Virginia and Florida.
Both men will be back in the region next week at yet-to-be-announced events. Mr. Obama is expected in Dayton on Tuesday and then back in Cleveland Thursday night at the close of two-day bus tour of swing states. Mr. Biden will be in Ohio Monday through Wednesday, including a stop Tuesday at the University of Toledo.
He repeated Mr. Romney's promise to make North America energy independent by the end of the decade, pledging that the Keystone oil pipeline will be built, and to embrace new technologies, such as those expected to unleash natural gas deposits in the region to do it.
Mr. Obama made his first visit to southeast Ohio earlier this week, heading for friendly Democratic territory, Ohio University, where he went after Mr. Romney's focus on coal during Tuesday's second debate.
“He stood [as governor] in front of a coal-fired plant and said this plant kills people,'' Mr. Obama told the Athens crowd. “Now he's running around talking like he’s Mr. Coal. Come on. Come on. You know that’s not on the level. Does anybody really look at that guy and say he is really into coal?''
That theme was picked up in a radio ad in the region financed by the liberal advocacy group, Progress Ohio. The organization has filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission against the owner of a local coal mine where Mr. Romney recently rallied with miners, some of whom later complained that they went without pay for that shift because the mine was closed but were still required to attend the rally. The mine has denied that attendance at the rally was mandatory.
Mr. Obama has said cleaner-coal technology is part of his plan to broaden the nation's energy resources and reduce its dependence on foreign oil.
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.