Politico reporter Darren Samuelsohn (for the second time today) tries scaring Republicans with the green card.
Samuelsohn’s second effort is below.
GOP post-Huntsman climate troubles?
By: Darren Samuelsohn
January 17, 2012 04:18 PM EST
So much for embracing climate science as a Republican presidential candidate in 2012.
The demise of Jon Huntsman’s White House hopes leaves GOP climate moderates without a champion in the remaining Republican field, especially given front-runner Mitt Romney’s efforts to convince global warming skeptics that he’s one of them. And that raises questions about how the party’s eventual nominee will fare with science-minded voters against President Barack Obama in November.
“There are a lot of reasons Huntsman was not successful, but his story does raise important questions about primary voters and the Republican Party going forward,” said Adam Mendelsohn, a political adviser to former California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “The issue never really saw the light of day in the Republican primary. The question now is whether that becomes a liability with swing voters in the general.”
Huntsman himself has tried to warn that Republicans spurn climate science at their peril.
“The minute that the Republican Party becomes the anti-science party, we have a huge problem,” the former Utah governor said during an August appearance on ABC News’s “This Week,” in which he lumped evolution and climate science together. “We lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012.”
The same month, he snarked it up on Twitter after Texas Gov. Rick Perry, then surging in the polls, called climate change a “theory that’s out there.”
“To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy,” Huntsman tweeted.
But in the end, it was the wrong message in the wrong campaign. While Huntsman’s statements endeared him to moderate Republicans desperate to back a winner all the way to the White House, they were nowhere near enough to overcome Romney’s head start, let alone conservatives’ doubts about the climate issue and Huntsman’s own service as Obama’s ambassador to China.
“Huntsman seemed to want to be a general election candidate in the primary,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the top economic adviser to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “I think this is simply evidence that his energy and environment stance could not compensate for weakness on the core issues of jobs and government spending.”
Huntsman entered the Republican nomination race last spring amid considerable media hype. Time magazine headlined an exclusive interview with Huntsman — just off the plane from Beijing — by touting the ex-governor as “The Potential Republican Presidential Candidate Democrats Most Fear.”
But the thing was, Republicans never really worried much about him.
“First, he looks and sounds like a moderate, which you can get away with, but only if you are rock solid on the issues,” said GOP energy strategist Mike McKenna, who has been advising Perry’s campaign. “He is [or was] wrong on climate change [and gay marriage]. That made primary voters very nervous.”
Huntsman also had problems, McKenna said, because “in a lot of respects, he was the mirror of Romney.”
“Romney looks and sounds like a conservative, but will wind up being probably the most leftward candidate ever nominated by the Republicans,” McKenna added. “Huntsman is way to the right of Romney, and had he not started his campaign by highlighting those issues on which he is a moderate, he could have done much better.”
While other Republicans ran completely from the climate issue, Huntsman tried to straddle the fence. In the Time interview, he defended global warming science but waved off his work in Utah partnering with neighboring Western states and Canadian provinces on a regional cap-and-trade compact.
“All I know is 90 percent of the scientists say climate change is occurring,” Huntsman said. “If 90 percent of the oncological community said something was causing cancer, we’d listen to them. I respect science.”
Huntsman repeated the line about cancer many more times on the campaign trail. And for the most part, he kept waving the science flag too.
As the sole presidential candidate to accept an invitation in July to speak at the Republicans for Environmental Protection’s second annual Theodore Roosevelt Dinner, Huntsman said that “conservation is conservative” and talked up his work encouraging recreation on public lands and expanding a natural gas corridor on Interstate 15.
“I’m not ashamed to be a conservationist,” he said. “I also believe that science should be driving our discussion on climate change.”
Huntsman didn’t miss out on other chances to distinguish himself from the field. He pledged earlier this month during a New Hampshire debate that he wouldn’t cut the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, a popular program in the region that has seen its funding reduced by the Obama administration and Congress.
And he mocked Rep. Michele Bachmann’s pledge to bring gasoline prices below $2 a gallon.
“I just don’t know what — what world that comment would come from, you know?” he said on ABC News. “We live in the real world. It’s grounded in reality. And gas prices just aren’t going to rebound like that.”
Huntsman also had a brief moment when it sounded like he’d been converted to climate skeptic.
Speaking to bloggers at the Heritage Foundation in December, Huntsman cited the “ClimateGate” saga involving stolen emails from climate scientists to suggest that “there are questions about the validity of the science.”
“The scientific community owes us more in terms of a better description or explanation about what might lie beneath all of this,” he said. “But there’s not information right now to be able to formulate policies in terms of addressing it overall, primarily because it’s a global issue.”
The next 24 hours were all about damage control as Huntsman insisted that his remarks were actually nothing new.
“Let me be very clear on this: There is no change,” he said the next day following a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition. “I put my faith and trust in science. So you have 99 of 100 climate scientists who have come out and talked about climate change in certain terms, what is responsible for it. I tend to say this is a discussion that should not be in the political lane but should be in the scientific lane.
“Is there a 1 percent that has a disagreement? There’s a 1 percent that has a disagreement,” he added. “Will those discussions continue, as they always do in the scientific community, to clear up those areas of ambiguity? I suspect so. But, as for me, I’m on the side of science on this one.”
No matter Huntsman’s explanations, the right never warmed to him. When he spoke at a Capitol Hill hotel during the Republicans for Environmental Protection event, skeptics from JunkScience.com paid for a digital billboard mounted on the back of a pickup truck to circle the block, labeling Huntsman “Utah’s Al Gore.”
“Probably more than any other single issue, Huntsman’s belief in man-made global warming fears guaranteed that his candidacy could never get off the ground,” said Marc Morano, former aide to Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) who publishes the skeptics’ blog Climate Depot. “It’s not that GOP primary voters rejected Huntsman, it’s that they simply did not consider him at all. ”
David Jenkins, vice president for government and political affairs at the Republicans for Environmental Protection, said last week that Huntsman was at the top of the list of GOP candidates deemed “the most thoughtful” on environmental stewardship, followed by Romney.
As news broke over the weekend of Huntsman’s decision to leave the race Monday, Jenkins argued that his troubles at the polls had little to do with his stance on climate change science.
Jenkins also noted that when climate skeptics did train themselves on the issue, they went much harder at former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for cutting a commercial while seated on a love seat with Nancy Pelosi and touting the need for bipartisan cooperation on the issue. “Anyone who tries to claim Huntsman’s views on climate somehow hurt him is blowing smoke,” Jenkins said. “Huntsman’s late start and decision to bypass Iowa conspired against him in a crowded field.”