The Obama administration’s interminable, entirely manufactured, hyper-politicized stalling — oh, excuse me, I’m sure I meant the extremely technical deliberative review process through which the State Department has been so earnestly and efficiently making steady progress, for five years — made all kinds of sense when President Obama himself was the one up for reelection. Despite the United States’ dearth of pipelines in the face of the burgeoning shale revolution and the obvious merits of collaborating on a pretty straightforward infrastructure project with one of our biggest trade partners, an approval would have risked sending shockwaves of (entirely misplaced) environmentalist disappointment and indignation through the ranks of his progressive base as well as some of his self-fancied “green” donors of the deep-pocketed California and Manhattan set.

With this year’s midterms, however, that electoral calculus could be changing: This year’s mission is to protect the handful of vulnerable red-state Democrats whose loss would mean a partisan turnover of the Senate. I’ve been wondering if the Obama administration intended to merely keep delaying the decision until after the depth of his final-stage lame-duckery had been fully determined, but the presidential seal of approval would give Republicans one less thing with which to hammer Democrats in states where energy is a major issue, like Alaska, Louisiana, and Montana.

If the president does actually want to make a decision in time to tip the midterms, the State Department seems to be setting him up, reports the WSJ:

The Obama administration is set to complete a critical phase of its Keystone XL pipeline review next month, setting the stage for President Barack Obama to make a call on the politically charged decision in the thick of the midterm campaign season.

The State Department, which has been studying the project for years, aims to release a report on the environmental impact of the proposed pipeline extension in early or mid-February, people inside and outside the government familiar with the decision said Thursday. That would put Mr. Obama on track to make a decision by May or June. …

One person familiar with the process at the State Department said the environmental-impact report will be crafted in a way that gives the president wide leeway to make a decision. Another official said the report is expected to be relatively vague, so Mr. Obama would be able to cite it to support a decision for or against the pipeline.

Perhaps sensing the possibility of impending doom for the cause on which they have so inexplicably chosen to put a stake in the ground, eco-radical groups have been pushing the president to reaffirm and deepen his commitment to his climate-change agenda and further punish fossil fuels in the past few weeks — but we’ll have to wait and see. If Obama does decide to kill the project, I doubt that those same senators will hesitate to come out swinging against the administration on yet another front, hard:

Some Senate Democrats locked in tough re-election fights, among them Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, have said they might file legislation seeking to overturn the ruling if Mr. Obama reject the pipeline.

“At the end of the day, we may just have to push this issue pretty hard,” Mr. Begich said in an interview.