West Virginia Democratic Senator Says He Might Switch Parties

(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters, Pres. Obama: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin announced during the election Tuesday that he might become a Republican if the Senate is evenly split.

Manchin is a conservative-leaning Democrat who has repeatedly clashed with other Democrats over coal power and environmental regulations.

Coal is a critical industry in West Virginia. America has 83,000 fewer coal jobs and 400 coal mines than it did when President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, showing the president has followed through on his pledge to “bankrupt” the coal industry.

Much of the blame for coal job losses is targeted at federal regulations aimed at preventing global warming, resulting in a sharp decline in the price of coal, bankrupting plants and mines. As a result, many ex-coal miners are unemployed and Appalachian “coal country” has faced very real economic devastation as a result, rapidly becoming much more Republican. The coal-producing areas of  Virginia have double-digit unemployment.

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