Georgia’s Democratic Senate nominee, Michelle Nunn, released an ad chastising some her own party, who notably “play politics by dragging their feet on the Keystone pipeline.” She balances that attack with a shot at Republicans for blocking renewable energy projects. But she likely knows that she will draw more attention for taking a swing at her fellow Democrats, and that’s why she would do it.
And she’s not alone. Several Senate Democratic candidates in competitive races are not only embracing fossil fuels, but also stressing how they will stand up, or have already stood up, to fellow Democrats on energy issues. The fate of Democratic control may rest on support from fans of coal and oil.
Democrats Landrieu, Begich, Tennant Standing Up to Barack Obama…
In Louisiana, a top oil-producing state, Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu is fighting to hold on to her seat with an ad featuring a oil rig service worker, testifying that “she took on the President to make it easier to drill,” and credited her with expanding the fleet of deepwater rigs fivefold.
In Alaska, similarly oil-rich, Democrat Sen. Mark Begich can been in an ad riding his snowmobile over the Arctic Ocean, announcing I fought for five years to get the permits so we could drill under this ice, and we won. He knocks the EPA, Department of Interior, “national Democrats and the White House” for being naysayers, but “sooner or later, Washington will figure out that I don’t take no for an answer.”
In the coal country of West Virginia, the long-shot candidate, Democrat Natalie Tennant began her campaign with ad depicting her throwing a switch and knocking out the lights at the White House, after saying “I’ll make sure President Obama gets the message” that “it’s our hard working West Virginian coal miners that power America.”
The irony is palpable. President Obama has proposed EPA regulations that would cut carbon emissions from power plants by 30% from 2005 levels by 2020. While he doesn’t need Congress’ approval for this, he would prefer that Republicans do not win full control of Congress and bombard him legislation stripping the EPA of its legal authority, stoking a backlash that could unravel his rulemaking if Republicans claim the White House in 2016. The only way Obama is going be saved from a Republican Senate is if some of these Democrats win their races in their fossil fuel-friendly states.
…But Not Too Much
Note that these ads are not frontal attacks on Obama’s EPA regulations. Instead, the ads from the two incumbents, Louisiana’s Landrieu and Alaska’s Begich, tout their ability to bend Obama to their will and expand oil drilling locally. Not only does that accomplish their goal of showing support for fossil fuels, but it also gives them the opportunity to show off both their independence and their ability to get things done despite the chronic dysfunction of Washington. It’s a three-fer.
It all serves as a reminder of the big tent that is the Democratic Party and the competing pressures that complicate the Party’s efforts to build a clean energy-powered economy.