It’s difficult to say exactly, but given President Obama and the Democrats’ desperate hopes to make gains in both the House and Senate in the 2014 midterms and preferably not spend the remainder of his presidency as an oh-so-hapless and put-upon lame duck working to break through that obstinately obstructionist ‘Republican’ Congress, I’ve been mulling over the rollout of his executive and well-trumpeted plans to address climate change. He’s certainly been promising the environmentalist contingent that he’ll get around to serious action for long enough; obviously, election season was not a good time, but climate-change concerns are still not a top priority for the large majority of Americans. A Pew poll last week reported that only 40 percent of Americans consider climate change to be a major threat, presumably because — as vaguely green as the vast majority of his base as well as independents and even some conservatives may consider themselves — economic concerns reliably trump environmentalist ones (although admittedly the green lobby probably does make an outsized amount of political noise).
In terms of potentially embattled districts, however, Republicans are already seizing on opportunities where energy issues might have a major impact on races next year, talking up job and economic losses in the energy-rich states across the country. Via the NYT:
Elected officials and political analysts said the president’s crackdown on coal, the leading source of industrial greenhouse gases, could have consequences for Senate seats being vacated by retiring Democrats in West Virginia and South Dakota, for shaky Democratic incumbents like Mary L. Landrieu of energy-rich Louisiana, and for the Democratic challenger of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader. …
Republicans immediately went on the attack against Democratic House members in mining states, posting Web ads with a 2008 sound bite of Mr. Obama predicting regulating carbon emissions would cause electricity prices to “necessarily skyrocket.”
Asked about the impact of the president’s actions on his own re-election prospects next year, Representative Nick J. Rahall II, Democrat of West Virginia, said, “They don’t help.”
In Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic secretary of state, announced on Monday that she would take on Mr. McConnell in 2014, and was immediately attacked by national Republicans as being joined at the hip to the president in a “desire to destroy the coal industry.” Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, noted that Mr. Obama had rarely mentioned global warming during his re-election campaign because “he had to carry Ohio — that’s a coal state.” …
There may only be a handful of House races where energy could be a make-or-break issue, but the two Democratic senators from West Virginia — including Joe Manchin, whose campaign in 2010 including blasting environmental regulations and Obama’s 2009 cap-and-trade bill — weren’t very pleased about Obama’s plans, either.
West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, in an interview last week with Fox News, called the president’s plan a “war on America.”
“It’s just ridiculous. … I should not have to be sitting here as a U.S. senator, fighting my own president and fighting my own government,” he told Fox News. “I will continue to reach out, but I need a partner here. I don’t need an adversary.”
Manchin’s colleague, Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller, was more reserved, saying the president needs to provide more information about how miners would be affected.
And as I mentioned last week, too, energy production could be a key factor in the Virginia gubernatorial this fall — Cuccinelli immediately went on the attack trying to link McAuliffe to the president’s climate-change plans, and McAuliffe immediately tried to distance himself from it. This could definitely be a thorny issue for them on multiple fronts — I’d count on Democrats undoubtedly and vociferously continuing to paint Republicans as “flat-earth,” “climate denying,” supposedly science-hating “extremists” with nothing to offer but biblical references and conspiracy theories.