While the grandiose regulatory and top-down plan for addressing climate change that President Obama released yesterday is a fairly low-priority issue in and of itself for most Americans, it’s economic effects on the energy sector, jobs, and Americans’ cost of living looms quite a bit larger — and that is an issue that’s likely to manifest itself in 2013’s only competitive gubernatorial race.

The early polls so far have former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe and state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli pretty much running neck-and-neck in very purplish, national-bellwether status Virginia, although the most recent numbers have the the slightest, practically margin-of-error edge leaning toward McAuliffe. A major part of any victory is going to be a full-on battle for the independent vote, and energy is one of the bigger issues in Virginia especially, with its thousands of coal-related jobs and the huge potential for offshore drilling development — hence why Cuccinelli is immediately looking to associate McAuliffe and President Obama’s costly, industry-slapping climate-change plans, and McAuliffe is immediately trying to distance himself from them. Via WaPo:

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, the Republican nominee, used Obama’s climate plan to attack McAuliffe and his fellow Democrats for their policies on coal. And McAuliffe offered some mild criticism of the administration’s potential actions.

“While we’re waiting on actual regulations to be proposed, Terry believes any new regulations should balance the need to encourage clean energy with the fact that coal is, and will continue to be, a large portion of Virginia’s energy mix,” said McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin. “Terry would be seriously concerned about regulations that would significantly increase utility costs for Virginians or result in the closure of existing Virginia power plants.” …

“Terry McAuliffe and President Obama are joining together to continue their war on coal, inflicting devastating and unnecessary regulatory burdens on Virginia’s coal industry,” Cuccinelli said in a statement issued by his campaign. “Applying new emissions standards to existing coal-fired power plants makes our coal plants shutting down a very real and scary possibility …”

Back in his 2009 bid for the governorship, McAuliffe now infamously insisted that “We have got to move past coal. As governor, I never want another coal plant built” — but perhaps realizing the relative futility of holding down that position in the commonwealth, he’s since changed tack and endorsed “a healthy work force of coal.” On offshore drilling, too, McAuliffe has pulled a one-eighty since Virginia’s U.S. senators introduced legislative ideas for exploding the lockdown the Obama administration currently has over every area except that Gulf and Alaska later on. Expect the Cuccinelli camp to refer to the very obvious flip-flops, and the McAuliffe camp in turn to keep painting Cuccinelli as a kooky right-wing, science-denying, close-minded extremist, or something.