New KY campaign theme is ... Coal Miner's Model?

If the news in politics and war has become too grim this week, let’s remember why we love politics in the first place … absurdity. In Kentucky, where one of its most famous daughters produced the anthem Coal Miner’s Daughter, the coal industry is key to both the economy and identity of the state. After the Obama administration went after the coal industry with new EPA regulations, Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes produced an ad promoting coal in order to distance herself from Obama and establish her bona fides as an authentic daughter of Kentucky.


There was only one problem with the ad:

President Barack Obama’s new EPA rules on carbon emissions are politically toxic in Kentucky, so it’s no surprise that the Democrat challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to distance herself. Her campaign blasted out an ad on Monday afternoon that says, “President Obama and Washington Don’t Get It … Alison Grimes Does.”

Accompanying that message is a large picture of a man in a hard hat with a sooty face holding out a piece of coal toward the camera. It was taken by Ukrainian photographerVictor Gladkov and is for sale on the photo website Shutterstock.

Also available there are pictures of the same model dressed as a doctor, engineer, soldier, student, carpenter and painter. He is also shown making an obscene gesture toward the camera in one image.

Republicans leaped all over the photo choice, of course. That prompted the Grimes campaign to point out three stock-photo mismatches on Mitch McConnell’s site, but that misses the point of Grimes’ strategy. McConnell has been around long enough to not have to worry about his own authenticity, especially in the context of the Obama administration and EPA restrictions on coal. Replacing an Obama opponent with an Obama supporter in the US Senate does nothing to protect Kentucky’s native industry, which is why Grimes has to paint herself as a Kentuckian first and a Democrat second. Using a European male model rather than an actual Kentucky coal miner for a website picture makes Grimes look much less like an authentic Kentuckian and more like a poseur.


How difficult would it have been to send a staffer to a coal mine for a snapshot? There has to be at least one actual coal miner supporting Grimes … right?

This is an absurd little tempest-in-a-teapot scandal, but it points out a much larger problem for Grimes and other Democrats like her in the midterms. Josh Kraushaar wonders if Obama even cares about Senate races any longer with his unilateral declaration of war on coal:

Does President Obama care about keeping the Senate?

The president reportedly has told his close allies that losing the Senate would be “unbearable,” but his administration is doing everything possible to make things difficult for his party’s most vulnerable senators. On energy issues alone, the administration’s decisions to impose new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on coal-fired plants and indefinitely delay a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline could help burnish his long-term environmental legacy, but at the expense of losing complete control of Congress. …

To understand the disconnect between the White House and Congress’s views of energy politics, just look at the disparate results from 2010 and 2012 in the energy-producing battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Obama won all three states in 2012, even though Mitt Romney attacked him over his administration’s environmentally minded policies throughout the campaign. But in the previous midterm election, when blue-collar workers made up a larger share of the electorate, Republicans picked up a whopping 13 (out of 28) Democratic-held House seats in those states, with Rob Portman and Pat Toomey scoring huge Senate victories. Most of the successful Republican challengers in those states campaigned against the Democratic cap-and-trade legislation, which didn’t become law, but nonetheless served as a rallying cry for the GOP. Obama won despite his liberal environmental policies, but when he wasn’t on the ballot, his party lost nearly half of its members in those crucial battleground states.


In other words, it’s a weird time to remind these voters of the damage that Democrats can do in their own back yards.

Republicans weren’t alone in laughing at Grimes. Mika Brzezinski noted that she had a problem with “optics,” and the panel on MSNBC’s Morning Joe found it quite amusing:

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