BEALLSVILLE, Ohio - Mitt Romney came to coal country here today to accuse President Obama of not telling the truth about how he feels about the coal industry and to tout his own support for the workers, many of whom lined up in hard hats to hear him speak.
"How in the world can you go out there and just tell people things that aren't true," said Romney in talking about having just listened to a recently released radio ad from the Obama campaign that drew on comments Romney made regarding the safety of a coal plant in Massachusetts back in 2003.
The Obama radio ad, released last week, seeks to highlight the president's support of clean coal and new technology, while also drawing on a quote from a 2003 press conference in which Romney said of a Pacific Gas and Electric coal plant, "I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people, and that plant kills people."
"This is a time for truth. If you don't believe in coal, if you don't believe in energy independence for America, then say it," said Romney, turning the criticism on Obama. "If you believe that the whole answer for our energy needs is wind and solar, why say that. Because I know he says that to some audiences out west. But it's time to tell the people of America what you believe."
Romney drew on comments the president made back in 2008, when he suggested those who sought to build coal plants would go bankrupt because they would be "charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted." The Obama campaign at the time suggested those comments were taken out of context, but that didn't stop Romney from bringing the remarks to the forefront in his speech here today.
"One promise he kept was with regard to energy. He said if he's elected president and his policies get put in place the cost of energy would skyrocket. That's one he's kept. He also said you can go out and build a new coal plant if you want but if you do you'll go bankrupt," said Romney. "That's another promise he's intent on keeping."
"His vice president said coal is more dangerous than terrorists. Can you imagine that?" said Romney, the crowd erupting into "boos," as the candidate referenced a 2007 remark by Biden in which he listed coal before terrorism when asked which was more likely to contribute to the death of your average American.
"This tells you precisely what he actually feels and what he's done and his policies over the last 3.5 years have put in place the very vision he had when he was running for office. But now he wants to get re-elected," Romney said of Obama. "And he knows to do so he's got to win Ohio and to win Ohio he's got to win Eastern Ohio and he's got to get the votes of the people in these communities all around us here. And you're not going to let that happen."
Asked about Romney's remarks about coal in 2003 that the Obama campaign pointed to again today in a statement as an example of Romney not being honest about his views on coal, spokesman Kevin Madden said that "any time you're dealing with any sort of energy exploration, safety is important - no change to that."
"I think he's made very clear where he stands on this position, that he believes that it's an important part of an all of the above energy policy," said Madden. "If we're going to bring back the manufacturing sector in this country and continue to grow the economy, that sources of energy like coal - and coal which is very important to this economy and this region of Ohio and other states, that it's important to be supportive of the coal industry."