When last we saw Mark Udall, the Democratic Representative and Senate hopeful had skulked off a plane from DC after reneging on his promise to keep the House in session until Nancy Pelosi allowed a vote on drilling. When Pelosi called for the adjournment vote, Udall suddenly took a powder — and Pelosi won the adjournment by the single vote Udall failed to cast. The NRSC published this web video on Udall, capturing the furtive, over-the-shoulder look the AWOL Congressman gave a local TV videographer in the airport:

Now Politico reports that Udall has pledged to support drilling in the OCS, reversing himself on a key environmental position:

Udall, one of the House’s preeminent environmentalists and the Democratic nominee in a closely contested Colorado Senate race, came out in favor of a bipartisan, comprehensive energy plan that would permit additional offshore drilling — a striking departure from his past opposition to such measures.

He also aired a television ad featuring oil workers on a derrick, with Udall saying, “We’ve got to produce our own oil and gas here in our country and keep it here to power America’s economy. …

But Udall — whose Senate campaign has renamed his GOP opponent, Bob Schaffer, “Big Oil Bob” — is certainly one of the least likely proponents of offshore drilling.

His family name is closely tied with the protection of natural resources and conservation, consistent with the approach that he has advocated in the House. In Congress, Udall opposed offshore drilling on numerous occasions, and voted against expanding refinery capacity six times.

This is a measure of how well the Republicans have managed the oil crisis over the last few weeks, or perhaps more accurately, how badly Democrats have bungled it.  Udall himself became a poster boy for Democrats fleeing from the drilling question. The House OIl Party conducted by the GOP caucus has continually reminded everyone that the Democratic leadership has been AWOL all along.

Now Democrats want to try reversing their loss in standing by offering somewhat less demonization and at least a rhetorical paean to American production.  Udall kept painting his Republican opponent for the Senate, Bob Schaffer, as “Big Oil Bob”, right up to the point where even Democrats realize that the populist demonization of American oil producers has become passé.  Instead of real solutions, though, they insist that oil companies have to drill on unproductive leases first before they can look for more oil elsewhere, and that a windfall-profits tax will help investment by stripping producers of their capital for exploration and extraction.

Udall and the rest of the Democrats have finally awoken to the anger of an American public which finally realized that they have been fed populist pap for decades on oil production.  Now life-long obstructionists like Udall want to cover themselves by pretending to be more oil-friendly than Republicans while offering nothing in terms of actual increased domestic production.  Udall and his friends may think they can fool the American electorate one more time, but Americans understand the issue much more clearly than ever — which is why Udall and his caucus have reluctantly begun their retreat from retreat.