Discontent with Obama in coal country grows

Rep. Mark Critz (D-Pa.) won't attend the Democratic National Convention, a sign of growing discontent with President Obama from coal-country Democrats.

Critz's decision comes on the heels of the announcement that West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) will also skip the convention. West Virginia's Democratic chairmen made it clear they were skipping the convention because of frustration with Obama over energy issues.

Obama has long been unpopular in West Virginia. In the 2008 Democratic primary he was trounced by Hillary Clinton and in 2012 a prison inmate took more than 40 percent of the vote against Obama. 

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The president isn't expected to defeat Mitt Romney in the state this year, but the problems for Obama could grow if the discontent in coal country spreads through Ohio and Pennsylvania, two states Obama needs to win.

Critz said his decision to skip the convention, where Democrats will formally nominate Obama for reelection, is because he is focused on his district and not the national party's agenda.

"Since I was elected, my focus has been on creating jobs for people here, rather than focusing on the agendas of the political parties in Washington," Critz told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Tuesday.

But polls also suggest being close to Obama won't help Critz.

Critz spokesman Mike Mikus told the paper that their polling showed Obama trailing Mitt Romney by double digits in the southwestern Pennsylvania district, not an unsurprising number since Obama would have lost the newly redrawn district by 9 percentage points in 2008.

Mikus said that made the decision to skip the convention "pretty easy," and that it was "fair to say" Critz wouldn't ask Obama to campaign for him.

This is the second time in a week Critz has sought to publicly distance himself from Obama. After the president gave a speech in Cleveland last week, Critz blasted his policies.

"President Obama and others in Washington need to realize that we cannot spend our way to prosperity and that ... in order to create jobs, we need to address unfair trade deals that ship jobs overseas and enact policies that allow us to take advantage of our vast natural resources such as coal and natural gas in a safe and responsible manner which will lower energy costs and create jobs," Critz said in a statement in response to Obama's speech. "Approving the Keystone XL pipeline would be a good first step."

Democrats' — and other voters' — unhappiness with Obama in coal country could badly hurt him in the swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, as well as in Virginia.

The Hill rates Critz's race a "toss-up."