Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the two presumptive candidates for president in November, each paid lip service to out-of-work coal miners this week.
Speaking before a large crowd in Louisville Tuesday afternoon, billionaire businessman Trump criticized President Barack Obama for having “decimated” the coal industry. Trump drew cheers by saying he loves “clean coal.”
“Obama has decimated the coal industry, decimated it, and we’re going to bring the coal industry back folks,” Trump said. “We’re going to bring it back.”
He made similar comments during a rally Monday night at Radford College in Virginia.
During Clinton’s victory speech after the “Super Tuesday” Democratic primary races Tuesday night, she said something must be done to help the coal miners who have lost their jobs in central Appalachia after working for years to “keep our lights on and our factories running.”
“Don’t let anybody tell you we can’t make things in America anymore, because we can, we are and we will,” Clinton said from Miami, Florida. “Together we can break down the barriers that face working class families across America, especially in struggling rust belt communities and in small Appalachian towns that have been hollowed out by lost jobs and lost hope — families who for generations kept our lights on and our factories running.”
Trump’s Louisville appearance comes ahead of the state’s Republican presidential caucus Saturday.
The coal industry’s struggles have taken center stage in Kentucky campaigns. Coal supporters blame tougher environmental regulations by Obama’s administration for the sector’s slump. Appalachian coal businesses have also faced higher production costs and competition from other coal basins and natural gas.
Both Clinton and Trump swept through the South on Super Tuesday, claiming victory in their parties’ primaries in delegate-rich Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Virginia. The front-runners appeared ever more likely to end up in a general election showdown.
On the Republican side, Ted Cruz won his home state of Texas, the night’s single biggest prize, as well as neighboring Oklahoma. Democrat Bernie Sanders picked up a home-state win as well, in Vermont, and won in Oklahoma, too.
Still, the night belonged to Trump and Clinton, who turned the busiest day of the 2016 primaries into a showcase of their strength with a wide swath of American voters.
Signaling her confidence, Clinton set her sights on Trump as she addressed supporters during a victory rally.
“It’s clear tonight that the stakes in this election have never been higher and the rhetoric we’re hearing on the other side has never been lower,” she said.
Trump, too, had his eye on a general election matchup with the former secretary of state, casting her as part of a political establishment that has failed Americans.
“She’s been there for so long,” Trump said at his swanky Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. “If she hasn’t straightened it out by now, she’s not going to straighten it out in the next four years.”
Trump’s dominance has rattled Republican leaders, who fear he’s unelectable against Clinton in November. Even as Trump professed to have good relationships with his party’s elite, he issued a warning to House Speaker Paul Ryan, who declared earlier in the day that “this party does not prey on people’s prejudices.” Trump said that if the two don’t get along, “he’s going to have to pay a big price.”
But all efforts to stop Trump have failed, including an aggressive campaign by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to discredit the billionaire businessman.
For Rubio, Super Tuesday turned into a bitter disappointment. While many Republican officeholders have rallied around him in recent days, his first victory remained elusive.
With an eye on Florida’s March 15 primary, Rubio vowed to keep up efforts to “unmask the true nature of the front-runner in this race.”
Cruz desperately needed his win in Texas in order to stay in the race. He’s the only Republican to beat Trump this primary season, a fact he wielded as he called on Rubio and other candidates to step aside.
“I ask you to prayerfully consider our coming together, united,” Cruz said.
With results still coming in, Trump had won at least 139 Super Tuesday delegates, while Cruz picked up at least 52. Overall, Trump leads the Republican field with 221.
Sanders’s wins did little to help him make up ground in his delegate race with Clinton. She was assured of winning at least 334 of the 865 at stake on Super Tuesday. That’s compared to Sanders, who had at least 145 delegates.
Clinton also picked up wins in Arkansas, and Texas, while Trump carried the GOP contests in Arkansas and Massachusetts.
Trump’s wins in the South were a major blow to Cruz, who once saw the region as his opportunity to stake a claim to the nomination. Instead, he’s watched Trump, a brash New York real estate mogul, display surprising strength with evangelical Christians and social conservatives.
Republicans spent months largely letting Trump go unchallenged, wrongly assuming his populist appeal would fizzle. Instead, he’s appeared to grow stronger, drawing broad support for some of his most controversial proposals.
In six of the states on Tuesday, large majorities of Republican voters said they supported a proposal to temporarily ban all noncitizen Muslims from entering the United States, an idea championed by Trump. Nine in 10 of Trump’s voters were looking for an outsider, and half were angry with the government, according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research for The Associated Press and television networks.
In the Democratic race, Clinton has steadied herself after an unexpectedly strong early challenge from Sanders. The Vermont senator did carry his home state decisively, and told the crowd at a raucous victory party that he was “so proud to bring Vermont values all across this country.”
Sanders, who has energized supporters with his calls for a “political revolution,” has struggled to expand his base beyond young people and liberals. His weakness with black voters, a core part of the Democratic constituency, was underscored anew.
Clinton was supported by at least 80 percent of black voters in Alabama, Arkansas, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas.
Compiled from Mountain Eagle and Associated Press reports.