Kimberly Strassel explains why Congressman Rick Boucher (D-VA) is in trouble:
[Boucher's district] isn’t a natural home for a Democrat; John McCain won it with 59% of the vote. Mr. Boucher has held it for 14 terms by keeping tight with local mining unions, delivering pork, and carefully tending to the district’s culturally conservative leanings. He voted for the Iraq War; he gets top grades from the NRA. (It was his opposition to the Clinton “assault” weapons ban that helped him in 1994.) He beat his 2006 opponent with 68% of the vote. The GOP didn’t bother in 2008.
Mr. Boucher felt so invulnerable that last year he made the mindboggling decision to join with green purists to craft the cap-and-trade dagger aimed at his own district—home to thousands of coal jobs. He is a powerful member on the House Energy Committee, and his support helped pull along other reluctant Democrats, earning him a shout out from the White House. It also earned him a target on his back.
Republican Morgan Griffith, the 52-year-old Virginia House majority leader, has so successfully made Mr. Boucher’s cap-and-trade vote an issue that he’s moved the race into toss-up territory. In ads, at campaign stops and in discussions with coal miners, Mr. Griffith taps into public unease over unemployment and pounds away at the Democrat’s vote to make it worse by “killing coal jobs.”
Splashed across the district are signs that cry out: “Boucher Betrayed Coal.” The free-market Americans for Job Security has been up with ads blaming Mr. Boucher for putting Mrs. Pelosi’s “job killing agenda ahead of Virginia coal.” The National Republican Campaign Committee’s TV spot, called “Big Numbers,” states: “56,000: the jobs Virginia could lose thanks to Boucher’s cap-and-trade plan.”
Mr. Boucher sensed danger earlier this year and has run right: He voted against ObamaCare and has a newfound love for Bush tax cuts. But he’s in a defensive crouch on the main issue, reduced to excuses for his cap-and-trade vote. A top one is the old chestnut that he got involved to make the bill better. He points to money he had inserted for “clean coal,” and has somehow spun his work into an ad claiming he “took on his own party” to “protect coal jobs” in the, ahem, “energy” bill.
Yet as the race has tightened, the Boucher campaign has looked more desperate. It nitpicked the Americans for Job Security ad and demanded TV stations pull it. The union bosses for United Mine Workers of America had to step up, inviting Mr. Boucher to keynote a picnic to try to shore up coal workers. He’s newly passionate about reining in an anti-coal EPA.
Mr. Boucher appears to still lead, but with a GOP wave building, no Democrat with an anti-job vote against his own constituents is safe. Virginia’s ninth has already delivered one of the lessons of 2010: Cap-and-trade policy is terrible. Cap-and-trade politics is deadly.