Campaigning in the heart of coal country Saturday, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan made a direct play for the voters in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio whose livelihoods depend on energy production by charging that President Obama is waging a “war on coal.”

“Over a hundred coal plants are scheduled to close costing us thousands of jobs. Just a month ago we lost 1,200 coal jobs in states like Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia,” Ryan said during an airport rally in Moon Township, Pa., near Pittsburgh. “Not only are these policies wrong, not only do these policies cost us jobs, not only do they mean that American energy dollars go to the Middle East… they are keeping us from having jobs, they are keeping us from making our pay checks stretch farther.” Ryan made the same points an hour’s drive away in the eastern Ohio town of Belmont, and urged voters to cast their ballots early.

Ryan and Republican nominee Mitt Romney have made energy central in their quest to win over blue-collar voters in the Appalachian region, holding events in cities along the Ohio-Pennsylvania border such as Youngstown, Beallsville and Belmont. Ryan has now held two events in Western Pennsylvania — he visited Carnegie on August 21 – even though the state is largely viewed as leaning toward Obama.

Ryan also targeted gas prices and domestic oil and gas production during his campaign stops. “Look, gas prices are more than double what they were four years ago. Who knows what they’re going to be if he got four more years?” he said.

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