WaPo: Republicans to make oil, energy central message

The Republicans may be poised to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in 2008 after all, as long as the Democrats insist on handing them the opportunity.  The Washington Post reports that the GOP has finally realized the potency of domestic production as an electoral issue and plan to make it the central message for both the presidential and Congressional races.   The only danger to this approach is that it hinges on Democrats remaining obstructionist on increasing domestic production:

Four-dollar-a-gallon gas has done something that few Republicans thought possible just a few months ago: given them hope.

United behind a renewed push for offshore oil drilling, Republican members of Congress and the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain, think they have found their best political issue of the 2008 campaign.

McCain strategists and GOP leaders on Capitol Hill say the issue, which polls suggest Americans favor by healthy margins, lets Republicans demonstrate their plans to address the anger over high gas prices as well as the broader economic distress that many voters feel.

Because most Democrats, including Sen. Barack Obama, are opposed to increased drilling, McCain and the GOP have already begun casting their rivals as unconcerned about gas prices and unwilling to wean the country from foreign oil.

Actually, two dangers exist.  The first would be a move by moderate Democrats to lift the federal moratorium on drilling in the OCS and in interior lands.  That would validate Republican policy on energy, but would also take the urgency out of the issue and solve the major problem of supply.  Republicans could run on the issue of ensuring long-term domestic production — in other words, not trusting Democrats to keep from imposing another moratorium when they have the chance — but the sting will have been removed.

The other danger would be a major spill or catastrophe in current oil production.  The Post mentions one such spill that has already occurred, but that came from a collision between a tanker and a barge, not from production itself.  Purchasing oil abroad requires a lot more tankers with a lot more sea time, providing even more opportunities for such collisions.  However, if an oil rig suddenly failed, it could damage electoral efforts by the GOP.

Fortunately, both risks are small.  We haven’t had a major oil rig spill in decades, thanks to much-improved technology.  The worst releases of oil into the sea come from the Earth itself.  And thanks to the marriage between radical environmentalists and the Democratic Party, an outbreak of rational thought on energy there is about as likely as a major oil spill today.  Let’s hope that the Post has this correct and that the GOP makes this the central issue of the campaign in 2008.