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Now Rand Paul's support for coal, Kentucky's black gold, is questioned

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Barack Obama,Mitch McConnell,EPA,Rand Paul,Energy and Environment,Alison Lundergan Grimes,Coal,Nuclear Power

Under fire from Democratic critics who charge he’s mouthed conflicting positions on Israel and voting rights, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s support for regulations on coal and a past comment that it is “very dirty” are fueling a new assault on the 2016 GOP front-runner as he boards Sen. Mitch McConnell’s “Coal Country Bus Tour.”

In his latest offer of help to the embattled McConnell, Paul plans to take the bus tour Wednesday through Greenville and Madisonville, in the western half of the coal-rich state.

During the tour, McConnell has been lashing out at President Obama for attacking coal and coal workers. He has linked Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes to Obama. “These people are against everything we stand for,” he said at one recent stop, according to the Sentinel-Echo.

With Paul joining him Wednesday, McConnell gets the support of a Tea Party favorite, a leading presidential candidate and a politician locals believe supports them. Earlier this month, Paul read a poem attacking Grimes as anti-coal. "To liberals, she whispers: coal makes you sick. In Kentucky, she claims coal makes us tick. To the liberals, she sells her soul — the same ones who hate Kentucky coal," he said.

But his other comments about coal, both recent and more dated, might give supporters concern. For example, in 2008, while touting nuclear energy, he said, “Coal’s a very dirty form of energy. You may have coal around here that needs to be mined, but I mean, the thing is, it's probably one of the least favorable forms of energy.”

The New York Times noted that during a recent stop in Shelbyville, Ky., Paul didn’t repeat an earlier criticism of Obama’s anti-coal regulations. “We’re a pro-coal state, and I’m a pro-coal senator,” Paul said, adding, “but I’m not for no regulations on coal.” The Times said that he even said that today's environment is better than 100 years ago, “and some of that’s through government regulation.”

He had earlier accused Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency of launching a “War on Coal.”

Democrats said Paul was switching positions.

“Flip-flopping is when you change positions on an issue, but what Rand Paul does is worse. From his views on aid to Israel to the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and now coal, Rand Paul is somehow able to keep a straight face while taking opposite sides of multiple issues,” Democratic Party Spokesman Michael Czin told Secrets.

“Rand Paul says he’s a new type of Republican, but there’s nothing new about a politician trying to pull a fast one on voters. Luckily, voters are smarter than that,” added Czin.

But Paul’s team fired back that Paul’s views are being distorted. While a proponent of multiple forms of energy, they said he would never take a position that would jeopardize a coal miner’s job.

“Sen. Paul is and always has been a proponent of energy freedom, and that includes the use of coal, which is an abundant, affordable and reliable Kentucky resource. He has sponsored or co-sponsored at least 25 bills to save and protect coal jobs in Kentucky,” said Paul senior advisor Doug Stafford.

“President Obama pledged to bankrupt the coal industry. He's following through on that promise and the result is an economic disaster for eastern Kentucky. Now, the national Democratic Party's hand-picked candidate, Alison Lundergan Grimes, is trying to escape the policies of her party and the president. If it weren't so dishonest, it would be hysterical to watch.”

A new PPP poll today found McConnell leading Grimes by four points, 44 percent to 40 percent.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.