Tomblin is responding with, among other things, a TV ad touting his support of the industry. Notably, Tomblin specifically mentions President Obama. "Since the day I became governor, I've fought the Obama administration's war on coal," Tomblin says in the commercial.
What will those southern West Virginia voters do?
Tomblin hopes the Democratic majorities will actually turn out. An unpopular Democratic president at the top of the ticket and the decision by the United Mine Workers to stay out of the race will likely suppress the vote.
Maloney, who largely ignored southern West Virginia in the 2011 race, is spending time and resources there this time. He's trying to make this essentially a recall election on Tomblin, arguing that the stay-the-course approach by Tomblin in last year's race has led to economic turmoil.
The downside of a recall strategy, as opponents of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker found out earlier this year, is that voters may look at the Tomblin-Maloney race and say, "Hey, we already decided this last year."
Joe Manchin won two terms as governor in easy elections (2004 and 2008), and one of the reasons was the strength of the coal industry. Coal boomed between 2003 and 2011, providing good-paying jobs, economic growth and a flush treasury.
However, the cooling off of coal makes it much harder for incumbent politicians, particularly in this governor's race, to make their case in a part of the state reeling from the effects of the slowdown.
Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. The show can be heard locally on WCHS 580 AM.