Tracking Appalachia's Swing From Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump Country

Clinton faces an uphill battle in Appalachia, a growing base for Trump.

ByABC News
May 4, 2016, 11:57 AM

— -- During his victory speech Tuesday night after the Indiana primary, Donald Trump emphasized a region that could be ground zero for support: Appalachia.

“The miners in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, Ohio and all over, they’re going to start to work again,” Trump said. “We are not going to be like Hillary Clinton,” he said, taking aim at her ill-timed remarks last month for which she ultimately apologized.

Once upon a time in coal country -- states stretching along the Appalachian Mountains and the Marcellus Shale, a formation rich in underground resources like natural gas and coal -- the Clinton name reigned.

Back in 1992, then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton won counties in Appalachia with over 70 percent of the vote in the general election. Flash forward to 2016, and West Virginia, which holds its primary next Tuesday, eastern Kentucky, southwestern Virginia, and southern Ohio are home to the strongest pockets of Trump support in the country.

Trump, the glitzy billionaire from New York City, frequently mentions his popularity in the region on the campaign trail, and his message of bringing back factory jobs, revitalizing the coal industry and pushing for protectionist trade policies has excited white, economically depressed and underemployed blue collar voters in a geographic stretch from southern Pennsylvania to Kentucky.

Rupert “Rupie” Phillips, a Democrat and State delegate from Logan County, West Virginia, who voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, protested outside a Clinton event during the Democratic presidential candidate’s two-day swing through the region this week.

“It was with no disrespect to Bill. I just can’t support his wife,” Phillips told ABC News. “I can’t support anybody that doesn’t support coal.”

Clinton made waves across the region last month with her comments at a CNN Town Hall about the coal industry. As she explained her plans to reinvigorate the region’s industries, she made what she later called a "misstatement" when she said, "We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business."