BEALLSVILLE, Ohio—Mitt Romney took aim at President Barack Obama's energy policies on Tuesday, telling an audience outside a mining company here in the heart of Appalachia that Obama is waging "a war on coal."
Speaking against the backdrop of dozens of coal miners—their clothes and hats stained with the soot of the mine—Romney said Obama is trying to undermine what he described as a "crucial" energy source with crippling regulations. He also accused his Democratic opponent of lying to voters about his energy policies in order to score votes here in Ohio, a pivotal battleground state this fall.
"His vice president said coal is more dangerous than terrorists. Can you imagine that? This tells you precisely what he actually feels and what he's done," Romney said of Obama. "But now he wants to get re-elected. And he knows to do so he's got to win Ohio, and to win Ohio he's got to win eastern Ohio, and he's got to get the votes of the people in these communities all around us here. And you're not going to let that happen."
The presumptive Republican nominee slammed a recent Obama ad airing in the region that talked up Obama's policies toward the coal industry.
"I just scratched my head. He talks about how wonderful it is, and how we're adding jobs in the coal industry and producing more coal," Romney said. "How in the world can you go out there and just tell people things that aren't true? This is a time for truth. If you don't believe in coal, if you don't believe in energy independence for America then say it. If you believe that the whole answer for our energy needs is wind and solar why say that. Because I know he says that to some audiences out west. But it's time to tell the people of America what you believe."
The Obama campaign quickly fired back, pointing to comments Romney made in 2003 when he was governor of Massachusetts in which he vowed to close an aging coal plant in the state, telling reporters "this plant kills people."
Kevin Madden, a senior adviser to Romney, downplayed his boss's past remarks, suggesting he had not changed positions on coal and still supports safety measures in the industry. "Any time you are dealing with any sort of energy exploration, safety is important," Madden said. He added that Romney believes it is "important as part of growing the economy across the country that we have to have an all-of-the-above energy policy."
"If we are going to bring back the manufacturing industry ... then sources of energy like coal, which is very important to this economy in this region of Ohio and other states, it's important to be supportive of the coal industry," Madden said.
It was Romney's first stop on the final day of his battleground state bus tour. He's scheduled to make two other stops in the state, including a final rally outside a courthouse in Chillicothe Tuesday night.
Speaking to voters here, Romney made a plea to attendees to turn out support for him this fall.
"If there is one person you can convince to support our ticket. Just one person you can say, 'Look, you want a good job? This guy knows better how to create jobs than the guy we've got in there. Look at the record,'" Romney said. "I want you to use your own words to convince one person. If you could do that every day I would win, but if you could just do it once a month I'd probably win as well. This is a place where we can spread out the message that you're hearing today and say you know what? America is back. We're going to save these jobs. We're going to create greater prosperity for all Americans."