Kerry has not deviated from this environmentalist standard. And he must find a way to defend it in Ohio, where huge industrial job loss could portend Republican disaster and Democratic bliss. Republicans never have elected a president without carrying Ohio.
Republican Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio pounds the table in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee when the Jeffords bill is discussed, asking: "Do we want to do away with coal? If we do want to do away with coal, what is going to take its place?" The Ohio Coal Association, which orchestrated the state legislature's passage of a resolution condemning the Jeffords bill, is preparing to put Kerry's record in the hands of every coal industry worker in the state (and neighboring states, including West Virginia).
While Ohio long has been pivotal in presidential elections, West Virginia has been a backwater -- until recently. George W. Bush visited Morgantown, W. Va., the last weekend of the 2000 campaign to pin down five electoral votes from the overwhelmingly Democratic state, which Al Gore had alienated partly because of his perceived anti-coal position.
Nearly all the early political maps made for 2004 have West Virginia swinging back to the Democratic column this year, but the most recent poll by the American Research Group shows a flat-out tie at 46 percent. Kerry does not help by lauding his endorsement by the League of Conservation Voters, an organization that has labeled coal as one of the "inefficient, destructive fossil fuels of the past that pollute our air and water." John Kerry on the campaign trail this week predictably will avoid embracing that position.