Avoiding Obama’s Mistake, Senate Candidates Slam GOP Opponents Over Climate Denial

The less said about Obama’s inexcusably lame debate performance, the better. Kudos to team Romney for figuring out that in a nationally televised debate with only one, passive moderator, the winning strategy is the Gish Gallup: “the debating technique of drowning the opponent in such a torrent of half-truths, lies, and straw-man arguments” that there is no time to refute them all).

Obviously, Obama left many of his best arguments at home in many arenas. Heck, Obama didn’t mention the 47%, his campaign manager explained, because “It just didn’t come up in the debate. It wasn’t a deliberate decision.” Seriously!

So it’s just as likely his failure to press Romney on climate change was a (small) part of his overall dreadful debate strategy not to take the fight to the challenger as that he was silent on climate change under the (mistaken) belief it is not a winning political issue — see Polling Expert: Is Obama’s Reluctance to Mention Climate Change Motivated by a False Assumption About Public Opinion?

In sharp contrast, some Senate candidates, including independent Angus King, have figured out that global warming is in fact a winning political “wedge” issue.

Climate Progress has reported on the many, many polls and analyses that make this point — and just last week Bloomberg had another one:

Democrats and independent voters overwhelmingly accept the scientific evidence that human activity is warming the earth’s temperature, while almost two out of three Republicans don’t.

Among likely voters, 78 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of independents believe humans are warming the earth, according to a Bloomberg National Poll. That finding is consistent with other polls that show undecided voters, and majorities in contested states such as Ohio and Virginia are in line with President Barack Obama and most Democratic candidates in wanting to address the issue.

For those other polls see Polling In Swing States Shows, “Candidates Who Take A Pro-Climate-Action Stance Will Find It To Be A Vote Winner” and links below.

The key point is climate action is a classic political wedge issue for Democrats. That is, a candidate advocating climate action splits the anti-science Tea Party extremists from independents and even some moderate Republicans who favor cutting carbon pollution.

If few Democrats realize this, at least one Independent clearly does, as Politico reported this week in Morning Energy:

KING HITS GOP OPPONENT OVER CLIMATE CHANGE SCIENCE: In a new TV spot, Angus King, the independent running for Maine’s Senate seat, slams Republican opponent Charlie Summers on climate change science. “Charlie … doubts climate change science, favors taxpayer subsidies for big oil, and thinks Washington isn’t broken,” King says into the camera. “I want to bring common sense to the budget, get us off foreign oil with cleaner energy made in this country.” The ad:

Back in 2010, only two Senate races saw a candidate’s position on global warming become a major issue.  In those two Senate races, the candidate that stood with the Senate’s top global warming denier — James Inhofe (R-OIL) — and embraced denial of basic scientific reality lost.

The first was Carly Fiorina in California (see After Inhofe’s endorsement, Carly Fiorina challenges climate science — unlike the company she once ran! and Politico on CA Senate debate: “Fiorina’s major stumble came on the issue of Proposition 23″).  She was crushed by climate hawk Barbara Boxer.

The second was the Colorado race — see “Did Ken Buck’s global warming denial cost the Tea Party favorite a Senate seat?” The Democract Michael Bennet was still behind his opponent, Tea Partier Ken Buck, by two points in the aggregate polling on October 21, but when Buck embraced Inhofe and denial that day, Bennet pounced, Colorado scientists rebuked him, and the media covered it (see “Ken Buck would let climate change ruin Colorado and unilaterally disarm its clean energy leadership“).  By election night, Bennet beat the final polls and won by almost one percentage point.

In a debate last month, Elizabeth Warren explained to Massachusetts voters that if they choose Scott Brown and turn the Senate over to Republicans, denier Inhofe could become head of the most powerful Senate environment committee:

“Sen. Brown has been going around the country, talking to people, saying, you’ve got to contribute to his campaign because it may be for the control of the Senate. And he’s right. … What that would mean is if the Republicans take over control of the Senate, Jim Inhofe would become the person who would be in charge of the committee that oversees the Environmental Protection Agency. He’s a man that has called global warming ‘a hoax.’ In fact, that’s the title of his book.”

The Washington Post called the move from Warren a “powerful card.”

Then we have the Senate race between Republican Deb Fischer and Democrat Bob Kerrey.

Nebraska’s two candidates for U.S. Senate faced off in their final debate of the campaign Monday, sparring over global warming….

Kerrey thinks global warming is man-made; Fischer doesn’t….

Kerrey was the debate’s clear aggressor….

Kerrey criticized Fischer for saying in an earlier debate that she did not believe man-made pollution was linked to global climate change.

“I don’t think you can address any problems unless you begin by saying there is a problem,” said Kerrey.

Fischer countered by criticizing Kerrey’s support for a controversial program known as cap-and-trade. She argued it would place a $1,700 tax on every American.

Kerry responded:

“If we don’t do something about this problem — and I don’t disagree about cap and trade, I think there’s better ways to do it — if we don’t identify it as a problem, and then bring our ingenuity and our innovation to try to solve the problem, don’t count 40 years from now our grandchildren looking back and thanking us. Because they’re not going to. They’re going to ask the question, ‘What were you guys thinking? Why didn’t you acknowledge that the scientists are telling you, that this is a problem, and why didn’t you use your considerable talent to solve it?’ ”


And that’s Nebraska — not exactly a blue or even purple state. The headline of the Bloomberg polling analysis piece was, “Global Warming Links Democrats, Independents Isolating Romney.”

recent report from George Mason University reviewed multiple surveys and concluded:

The short answer is that – at the national level and among ten key swing states – taking a proclimate stand appears to benefit candidates more than hurt them with registered voters. Of course, the political dynamics in any given district may be an exception to this pattern, but it is important to note that the pattern is similar at both the national and swing-state scales.

If the moderator won’t inject the issue into the debate, the President must.

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7 Responses to Avoiding Obama’s Mistake, Senate Candidates Slam GOP Opponents Over Climate Denial

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    We should not assume that Obama doesn’t realize that climate action is a political winner. Other things influence leaders’ decisions, such as principles, risk, and money.

  2. Omega Centauri says:

    Joe. I sure hope you are right, and Kevin Drum who thinks that the vast bulk of Dems are avoiding the issue for a reason. He argues that policy polls are one thing, siding with a politician who is under fierce attack by a slew of talking points is something else. I’m glad you are citing cases where the Dem is using the issue, there is nothing like real data from real experiments to make the case. Still I am nervous about the outcome. I suspect support for action may be a mile wide and an inch deep, and vulnerable to appeals to fear “it will cost jobs”.

    I think you will have to keep plugging the vote winner case, to get more politicians to bite on it.

  3. paul magnus says:

    Oh sxxt!
    Did anyone notice this article…. Lovelock, Hansen et al…. I told you so….

    Climate Portals shared a link.
    OK someone has finally said it out loud…. the Arctic Sea ice pretty much melted last year… 80yrs earlier than predicted… so when did they predict 5ft sea level rise? Get your life vest folks…

    Polar ice melting at faster rate than estimated, climate scientist warns
    People in vulnerable island nations may need to be evacuated within a decade as evidence shows Arctic and Greenland ice shrinking at greater speeds than models predicted

  4. Al Gore is correct. Global warming and high altitude causes brain-freeze in Heads of State. I know, I live in Los Alamos
    at seven thousand feet and it is unbelievable how mentally impaired the rocket scientists, theoretical physicists and other world class scientists are in our town.

  5. David B. Benson says:

    Appropriate action will create jobs; many jobs.

    For starters, replace all coal burners with nuclear power plants (NPPS). Even the 4 NPPs being constructed in the UAE is bringing US$2 billion to jobs in the USA.

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    If Obama chucks another dud performance like that, I’ll be convinced that he is going to throw the election. I always imagined that to be a possibility, but had grown to think that his diligent service to his business creators and masters had earned him ‘four more years’ of doing nothing but serve the plutocracy. Maybe not.

  7. Omega Centauri says:

    I know that, but do the lower information voters?