Article Reprinted from E&E’s ClimateWire
CAMPAIGNS: Gingrich, a ‘committed warmist,’ faces rising climate criticism (05/13/2011) (Link – Subscription Required)
By Evan Lehmann, E&E reporter
Climate change is pestering the launch of Newt Gingrich’s presidential bid as he faces what some analysts describe as a sharper standard from conservatives who doubt the world is warming.
But the “new orthodoxies” of the right could also provide new challenges for Republicans, as candidates who adopt skepticism about climate science to satisfy primary voters risk offending independents in the general election.
“The more you’ve got to move to the left or the right, the harder it is to make a graceful, or any kind of segue, back to the middle,” said Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. “And it looks from this perspective as if the Republicans are going to make it very hard to make that graceful move back to the center.”
Former House Speaker Gingrich (R-Ga.), who launched his campaign Wednesday, has so far resisted calls to apologize for expressing belief in climate change, and urging the government to address it. But that might become more difficult if video clips showing him on a couch with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was House speaker at the time they were recorded, explode through conservative circles.
The online ad captures Gingrich and Pelosi having a cooperative moment. They alternate lines after Pelosi acknowledges they haven’t always agreed on policies.
Gingrich adds, “We do agree our country must take action to address climate change.”
Pelosi resumes, “We need cleaner forms of energy, and we need them fast.”
Back to Gingrich: “If enough of us demand action from our leaders, we can spark the innovation we need.”
The clip might be enough to derail Gingrich’s political comeback, says Marc Morano, a former aide to Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who believes climate change is a political tool to advance Democratic interests.
Cap-and-trade attacks to resume
Morano, who runs the anti-climate blog Climate Depot, says conservative voters’ views against global warming have solidified in the last two years. Unlike other Republican candidates, like former Govs. Tim Pawlenty (Minn.) and Mitt Romney (Mass.), Gingrich is “defiant” about his past climate indiscretions, Morano says.
That might be enough, he adds, to disqualify Gingrich from the Republican nomination.
“If someone says, ‘You know, I’m not sure on the science; man may contribute; we need to look at alternative energy,’ that’s one thing. But he’s a committed global warmist. He went and endorsed [former Vice President] Al Gore’s problem and most of Al Gore’s solution by sitting there with Nancy Pelosi,” Morano said.
“And what it shows is his horrible and gross political miscalculations,” he added. “In 2007 and 2008, he actually believed that not only was global warming going to be a, quote, winning issue … but he actually believed the Republican base was going to accept this. Those are two horrible miscalculations.”
Polls show that a majority of Americans believe in climate change, and that a smaller majority accept that humans are contributing to the problem. But it is a partisan issue, with many more Democrats than Republicans seeing it as an urgent topic. [Climate Depot Note: Americans have consistenly rejected man-made global warming fears. See: Polling: ‘More Americans believe in haunted houses than man-made global warming’ – 37% vs. 36% & see: ‘Academic embarrassment’: Prof. Jon Krosnick Exposed for ‘faulty’ climate polls]
Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, says Gingrich’s political problems, including adultery, are so numerous that his positions on climate “rank well down the list.”
But they will complicate his nomination.
“The truth is that his views on climate change — at least at one time — went well beyond Republican orthodoxy,” Sabato said in an email. “Joining forces with Nancy Pelosi will not prove popular with the GOP base.”
Gingrich at one point accepted that cap and trade could be valuable for the environment and the economy. Although the policy was abandoned after Republicans attacked it as a tax during midterm elections last year, Sabato expects it will be used aggressively against past supporters in the presidential race.
“Just because it is dead in terms of [congressional] passage is irrelevant,” he said. “Cap and trade will still be used by Republicans against Obama in 2012.”