Now both candidates are talking up coal.
West Virginia, with its five electoral college votes, has been what is called a "flyover" state.
But a close contest changes that. Both Obama and Romney will have to learn at least a little about the concerns of the people they want to hire them.
What matters to people in coal-producing states suddenly matters to would be presidents..
Plentiful supplies of natural gas, hostile regulation by the Obama administration and a warm winter have done great damage to coal economies.
Some of West Virginia's largest producers have idled mines and laid off hundreds of people. Alpha Natural Resources was just the latest.
These are hard times in coal country.
It should be a clarifyingly hard time for political candidates as well.