Rep. Tom Cole, chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, held a blogger conference call to discuss the ongoing protest at the House over energy policy.  He said that politics can sometimes emulate war, in that battles that no one anticipated can turn into major engagements.  This protest is a good example.  Cole called this a “major opening” on energy policy.

Cole thanked the bloggers for perpetuating the interest in this story.  The national media has mostly been AWOL on this rebellion.

Republican leadership has decided to continue the protest for at least the next two weeks.  Cole has personally experienced how this rebellion has resonated among Americans, and Democrats have begun to notice it.  Will they come back early?  Probably not, but Cole feels that they will have to deal realistic when they do return.

GOP members feel energized with this effort.  They got a nice boost from Newt Gingrich’s visit, which gave the story an added boost.

Questions:

  • Has anyone heard back from Senator McCain? — Not yet, but he’s been on the right side of this issue.  They’re hoping he can fit it into his schedule.
  • Can we harness this issue to get a couple of dollars from everyone on lists and petitions?  — Great idea; he’ll work that out with the NRCC communications office.
  • What are you doing about actually winning the vote, and stopping a continuing resolution that extends the ban on drilling? — Cole says that people have woken up outside of the energy states.  Blue-collar families have been hit hard, and that makes Democratic electoral prospects cloudier.  Cole says that the White House has to be willing to veto anything that passes with the CR on the drilling ban in order to “dramatize the issue”.  Cole would like to get them to fold first, but the Republicans won’t let them off the hook.
  • Cole says this controversy also does one more positive thing for the GOP: it reminds voters who’s in charge of the Do-Nothing 110th Congress.
  • Will the momentum continue once Congress gets back in session? — Cole says he thinks that the GOP will win both politically and substantively.  The momentum will build because everyone wants something done to expand drilling except Nancy Pelosi and the extremists.
  • Cole also challenged Democrats who now say they support drilling to sign the discharge petition to get around Pelosi’s roadblock.  They’re hoping that the recent slide in crude oil prices will take this off the table, but Cole thinks it has gone too far to disregard it in the future.
  • “This thing may not have been elegantly planned, but that’s the beauty of it. … This is sort a work in progress.”
  • Cole praised members facing tough re-election bids like Marilyn Musgrave and Jane Smith who left the campaign trail to come back to the Oil Party.

I had to drop off to take another call.  The mood on the call seemed ebullient.  Cole feels that the Republicans have a winning hand, which John Boehner says will allow Republicans to beat back a CR on the drilling ban.  Let’s hope they’re right.