ThinkProgress filed this report from the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, Colorado.
In an interview with ThinkProgress, former Colorado GOP chair Dick Wadhams, who came to notoriety after guiding now-Sen. John Thune (R-SD) to a narrow victory over then-Majority Leader Sen. Tom Daschle in 2004, worried that his party risked alienating swing voters on environmental issues. “We cannot come across as anti-environment,” Wadhams declared. “I think if our language gets kind of intemperate, it could come across that way”:
KEYES: Do you think a lot of the GOP efforts like, for instance, Newt Gingrich has been out front calling to dismantle the EPA, do you think that’s going to help with swing voters in Colorado?
WADHAMS: I do think that we can make a case that the federal government and the EPA have overreached. It depends on the tone that we use. We cannot come across as anti-environment. What we have to do is come across as against the heavy hand of the federal government and in favor of reasonable environmental regulations and taxes. And so I think it’s all in the matter of how we do it.
KEYES: Are you worried though that some of the efforts and rhetoric might be construed as anti-environment?
WADHAMS: I think if our language gets kind of intemperate, it could come across that way. And so I think we need to be careful about that.
Though Wadhams feared the consequences of Republicans’ anti-environment reputation, their policies have been precisely that. Consider the records of the top GOP presidential hopefuls:
- Michele Bachmann hinted that she would also support dismantling the EPA, declaring in a debate that she wanted to “repeal” the “job-killing” agency’s regulations.
- Tim Pawlenty, at one time a cap-and-trade supporter because he understood the threat of climate change, has since flip-flopped on the issue. He now denies the reality of climate change, calls cap-and-trade a “disaster,” and refers to his previous position a “clunker.”
- In June, Mitt Romney told New Hampshire voters that it was important to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, only to backtrack in the face of conservative pressure and declare, “I don’t think carbon is a pollutant.”
- Only Jon Huntsman has shown willingness to tackle climate change, declaring in a speech this week, “I’m not ashamed to be a conservationist. I also believe that science should be driving our discussions on climate change.”
Unless Republicans quickly change their positions on protecting the environment, Wadhams’ hope for his party to avoid being labeled “anti-environment” will be in vain.