Monday Roundup: The Coal Miner Vote

Obama leading in latest Iowa poll • Farm Bill expired Sunday • The real cause of the Postal Service deficit • North Dakotans like Heidi Heitkamp, and that's helping her Senate campaign

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Who would have thought that coal miners would be at the center of the 2012 presidential election? But they are, according to Amy Bingham with ABC News.

“Coal miners may make up less than half of one percent of the American electorate, but those blue collar workers’ votes could pack a punch far beyond what their numbers suggest,” Bingham reports. “The majority of America’s coal production is clustered in a handful of states, three of which happen to be some of the most fiercely contested battleground states in 2012: Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia.”

Romney has three coal-related ads running, which attack President Obama for “waging a war on coal.” 

Obama has released his own coal ad. And today he issued a proclamation that promoted, among other alternatives, “clean coal.” “We will promote growth and job creation throughout the entire energy sector by further developing our domestic energy resources and supporting our nuclear industry,” The White House said.

“The logic for Romney is to find a potential economic problem that is relevant to Ohio voters that can potentially be connected to Obama,” Justin Buchler, an associate political science professor at Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, told Bingham. “It’s not just about coal miners; it’s about anyone who is willing to attribute economic blame to the president.”

The Yonder reminds readers that in this election, where the coal miner vote appears to be quite important, the United Mine Workers of America did not endorse a candidate.

Romney Viewed With “Suspicion” — The Atlantic’s Molly Ball reports that in Ohio coal country, “Romney is now viewed with nearly as much suspicion as Obama — and that may be the story of the 2012 election.” 

Obama Leading In Iowa — The latest Des Moines Register Iowa Poll finds President Obama leading 49-45 over Republican Mitt Romney in that swing state. 

Still half of all voters say they disapprove of the job the President is doing on the economy — and most think Romney would do a better job. “The numbers are striking — that’s his opportunity that he’s not cashed in on,” said the Register’s pollster, J. Ann Selzer. “It’s just a huge opportunity.”

Ag Education — A survey found that eight out of 10 Minnesota farmers are not taking continuing education courses or seminars at local colleges. A third say they don’t even know what’s offered, the MinnPost reports. 

One third of the Minnesota economy is tied to agriculture, which includes 340,000 jobs. “Minnesota can’t afford an education gap on the farm any more than in our state’s other great industries,” writes Brad Finstad, president of the Center for Rural Policy and Development. 

Wild Horse Roundup — The federal government hopes to round up 3,500 wild horses and burros starting today on federal land in Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. 

The government is already keeping 47,000 horses, most on pasture in the Midwest.

Dairy Collapse Continues — The AP writes about the continuing collapse of the dairy industry. This story tells about the closing of a fourth generation dairy operation, the Hooper farm, the tenth Maryland farm to close this year. 

Buffett Buys Wind — Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy has agreed to buy two wind projects under construction north of Los Angeles. 

The facilities are being built by Terra-Gen Power and have 300 megawatts of peak electric capacity. MidAmerican has been centered in Iowa, Illinois, South Dakota and Nebraska.

Liking Heidi Heitkamp — The Senate race in North Dakota is close because people like Democrat Heidi Heitkamp. 

“Senate Republicans considered the state in their column when Senator Kent Conrad, a veteran Democrat, announced his retirement last year, writes New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman. “But with shoe leather, calibrated attacks and likability — an intangible that goes far in North Dakota — Ms. Heitkamp has made this a real fight.”

So Long, Farm Bill DTN’s Chris Clayton notes that the old Farm Bill expired Sunday evening — and, no, the world did not end. 

Not that everything remains the same, Clayton writes. For one, there are several House and Senate races that should be solid Republican, but are contested now because voters are blaming Republicans for stalling passage of the Farm Bill.

But food stamps and crop insurance will continue as they are now, at least until January.

Farm Bill Protests — One of the states where the Farm Bill is playing a role in a Senate election is Montana. Last week, a few dozen protesters gathered outside the Great Falls campaign office of Rep. Denny Rehberg carrying signs that said, “All Hat, No Farm Bill.” 

Rehberg is the Republican running against incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester. 

Post Office Default — The Postal Service failed to make a $5.6 billion payment to the U.S. Treasury Sunday, largely because the Congress failed to pass legislation that would set up a long-term plan for Postal Service solvency. 

Ron Bloom, a vice chairman at Lazard Freres & Co., reminds us, however, that this default and Postal Service losses “are largely the product of a congressional mandate imposed on no other public or private enterprise in America. Since 2006, Congress has forced the Postal Service to make enormous annual contributions into a fund for future retiree health benefits, including the $5.5 billion and $5.6 billion mentioned above. In fact, since they began, these payments have accounted for more than 80 percent of the Postal Service’s losses.” 

The Postal Service reported losses, but it “could have instead chosen to report that its operating revenue was stable and that its operating losses were smaller than forecast and improved from the same period last year. And they could have also pointed out that the decline in first-class mail volume and revenue was smaller than expected and that Shipping Services achieved dramatic record growth.”

The problem is the congressional mandate, not just with the Postal Service, Bloom writes.

Great Plains To Warm Up — The High Plains Regional Climate Center says the average temperature in a six-state area will rise 8 degrees by 2090. That’s on top of a 1.7 degree increase over the past 115 years. 

Hey, it’s not all bad. North Dakota has seen a winter temperature decrease of 5 degrees since 1895. Summer temps are up 1.8 degrees.

 

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