"Did Ken Buck’s global warming denial cost the Tea Party favorite a Senate seat?"
In only two Senate races did 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 and embraced denial of basic scientific reality lost.
The first was Carly Fiorina (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
Just this afternoon, the Denver Post and AP called the Colorado Senate race for Bennet. On October 21st, Ken Buck embraced Inhofe: “Global warming is the greatest hoax” — and, as the clip above makes clear, Bennet attacked immediately.
Bennet had always been trailing in the polls, which began slowly tightening in early October, but Buck was still up by 2 points on October 21, according to Nate Silver’s polling analysis model.
When Buck embraced Inhofe and denial, 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 appears to have won by almost one percentage point.
I had noted that independent analysis and polling has shown the House climate vote was not a major factor in last night’s tsunami. But it probably played some role in at least one race, Rick Boucher’s loss in Virginia.
The flip side is that one can make a good case that climate and clean energy may well have played some role in Colorado — and it certainly played a big role in the California trifecta, the huge 10-point wins by Boxer and Brown, and the stunning 20-point defeat of Prop 23.
California and Colorado share some key features in common:
- A strong environmental ethic
- Leadership in the clean energy economy, with leading research institutions and many clean energy companies
- World-class expertise on climate science
- Many widely publicized studies on the great danger that unrestricted emissions of greenhouse gases pose to the state
Now both states have governors who are climate hawks.
With serious federal action on climate and clean energy all but dead for the foreseeable future, we will need to focus on a state-based strategy moving forward.