Politico confirms what many suspected, that the internal Democratic “debate” on drilling is really just a puppet show starring Pelosi as the bad guy and Dems like Jason Altmire with tough re-election bids as glorious pro-drilling heroes pleading with their leadership for action. (“Democratic House aides say the energy agenda has been carefully gamed out in strategy sessions…”) The point, of course, is to protect the current majority and stall until the election, when they’re bound to pick up seats and can use their new leverage next year to water down any GOP drilling proposals even further than they might now. In other words, they’re running out the clock — on the public, which overwhelmingly supports action in this area and is going to get much less of it if Pelosi’s strategy works.

The depressing part:

Democratic insiders said that Pelosi and other party leaders were “not rattled” by the GOP floor rebellion, and at this point, it’s not clear if the Democrats will even pay a price on energy. State-level polling conducted by Democrats suggests that voters still view President Bush and the GOP as the incumbent power in Washington, and Democratic strategists believe any anti-incumbent wave would hurt Republicans more than Democrats.

Gallup’s out this morning with data about incumbency that doesn’t quite confirm that assumption but points towards it. Only 36% say most members of Congress should be re-elected in November; good news, as that’s actually lower than the numbers at the time of the GOP wave in November 1994. But break it down by party and district and the data is more discouraging. Those with a Democratic representative say they should be re-elected by a 64/29 margin. Those with a Republican representative break 57/35. What explains the difference, disgust with the GOP brand or throw-the-bums-out anti-incumbency fervor misdirected at Republicans as the “incumbent power”? Hard to say, but bad tidings either way.

Exit question: Politico notes that if there’s no vote by September 30, the federal congressional moratorium on offshore drilling will lapse and the issue will devolve to the states for regulation. What’s the better option if you’re Pelosi? Let it lapse and then try to restore it next year, or renew it (at least in part) this year and run the risk of it becoming an election issue?