Huntsman Must Change Strategies to Rise

Former Governor Huntsman has once again said he accepts the reality of climate change. He told ABC's Christiane Amanpour on Sunday: “Let me make it crystal clear. I’m on the side of science in this debate.”

He is now the only GOP candidate for the White House who stands by climate science. All the others have denied it from the start or changed their positions once they got in the race. Even Huntsman had a temporary lapse a few weeks ago, but he quickly cleared up any doubt that he sees climate change as a threat and believes humans have caused it.

Huntsman knows this position sounds reasonable to the moderate voters who will sway the presidential election. A recent Pew poll found that 63 percent of independents agree there is solid evidence of rising temperatures. And more than six-in-ten moderate and liberal Republicans say there is solid evidence of global warming.

But in the GOP primary circus, science gets no respect and Huntsman gets no love. Nearly every other candidate has been the flavor of the week, except for Huntsman. How can he finally get his day in the sun? By reminding voters his is a stable, consistent leader who doesn’t flip.

Huntsman hasn’t captured the limelight yet because he looks too much like Romney. He is another conservative – but not Tea Party, Mormon governor with a background in business. At a time when voters and party leaders are looking for the anti-Romney—even former RNC Chairman Michael Steele said of Romney “the brother just can’t bake the cake”—you can’t win by being more Romney than Romney.

Huntsman has to distinguish himself, and he can do that by emphasizing the very thing his opponent lacks: steadfast conviction.

Take the issue of climate change. In June Romney told a crowd: “I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that… And so I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases.” But then Romney’s commitment to scientific fact went the way of his positions on health care reform and collective bargaining: it flipped. In October 2011, he said: “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”

Huntsman, meanwhile, acknowledged the threat of climate change when he was governor of Utah and he acknowledges it now that he is a candidate for the White House. He holds his convictions for more than a news cycle and that counts for something these days. Our country is in upheaval, and voters are wondering where the adults are. Huntsman is an adult. Whether you agree him or not, he represents exactly what he always has. And in the face of a shifting economic and an uncertain future, stable, even-keeled leadership will sound good to a lot of voters.

But Huntsman can’t wait for voters to come to him; he’s got to do a better job of reaching out to them. If Newt Gingrich has stepped into the ring before you got your turn, you know your campaign strategy isn’t working. Huntsman should change it by emphasizing constancy.

Clean Energy is A Political Winner

There is a name for avoiding certain issues in politics: avoiding the “third rail.” The theory is that if you touch this highly charged rail it will kill your political career. Clean energy and climate issues got that “third rail” tag during the 2010 election but the facts and the polls tell a very different story.

Senator Reid ignored the risk of clean energy being a “third rail”. He was one of the most endangered incumbents in the nation in 2010. To win, he focused on job growth with a specific emphasis on the jobs in the renewable energy sector. In fact, the very first ad produced by the campaign focused on clean energy. Brandon Hall, his campaign manager said, “Clean energy was our #1 issue in terms of a positive reason to vote for Harry Reid. It was huge with Independents – it was the #1 issue. We used it in everything we did.”

Why did it work? Clean energy is a winner across the board:

  • 91% of Americans say developing sources of clean energy should be a priority for the President and Congress, including 85% of Republicans and 89% of independents, and 97% of Democrats. (Yale Project on Climate Communication, 5/2011)
  • 86% of those polled want federal government to limit air pollution from businesses and 76% favored government restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from businesses. (Stanford University, 6/2011)
  • 66% of Americans consider “development of alternative energy such as wind and solar” as the preferred approach to addressing our energy concerns (only 26% chose oil, gas, or coal supplies. (Gallup Environment Poll, 3/2011)
  • On average, battleground state voters were almost 20 percentage points more likely to vote for someone who supports clean energy legislation. (Public Policy Polling, 10/2010)
  • When asked which energy sources we need to rely more upon, 88% of Americans said solar power, 83% said wind power, 28% said oil. In fact 71% of those polled felt like we should rely less on oil. (CNN/New Opinion Research Corp, 3/2011)
  • When asked who is to blame for an increase in oil prices, 61% of respondents said that oil companies had a “great deal” to do with the price spikes. Only 24% thought environmental regulation was to blame. (CNN/Opinion Research Corp, 5/2011)
Too easily members running for office are afraid of well-funded opposition creating the “third rail”. In 2010, Texas oil companies helped fund a California ballot initiative to roll back the state’s landmark clean energy and climate law. They spent millions of dollars trying to charge that rail.

With California suffering the second highest unemployment rate in the nation, the oil companies claimed their ballot initiative (Proposition 23) would support job growth. Data quickly revealed that keeping families safe from air pollution was a top priority -- and when voters learned that Proposition 23 would lead to dirtier skies, they opposed it. Californians defeated Prop 23 by a ratio of 2 to 1 on Election Day. In fact, the defeat of Proposition 23 gained more support than everything else on the ballot, including the gubernatorial and Senate races.

Two thousand miles away in Northwest Ohio, there have been mass layoffs and everywhere you look there are empty industrial facilities. Representative Betty Sutton (OH-13-D) used clean energy to paint a hopeful future for her district saying, “We have a lot of things going on in the development of alternative and new energy that is going to be powered by American workers … we have examples to present to people. We see work happening to sort of break down those fears that we have in my district.”

Clean energy is building a new economy based on the spirit of American innovation. It will create new job opportunities, reduce our dependence on oil and protect us from pollution that threatens our health and contributes to climate change. Voters understand this - and they’re supporting elected officials who share that vision.

The strength behind the clean energy economy is so clear that it’s no longer a Democratic, Republican, or an Independent issue. Lori Weigel, a Republican strategist and pollster with Public Opinion Strategies states, “What we are seeing consistently is support for renewable energy. We ought to be doing more. Voters’ support of a Renewable Electricity Standard is 65%, across the partisan spectrum. They are coming at this from a very positive view of renewable energy.”

Clean energy represents an incredible opportunity for candidates and the communities they hope to represent. Across the country, candidates successfully used it in their campaigns, and have won. It is the best of American values, such as innovation and entrepreneurship. Candidates will be successful when they take this message forward, whether celebrating a new battery research facility in Ohio, watching a new wind turbine turn powerfully against a Texan sky, or standing with the families who breathe cleaner air.

Find out more about running on clean energy at

Biweekly Public Opinion Roundup: Latinos, Politics and the Elections

As an emerging demographic group in the United States, and as a growing percentage of the electorate, the political concerns of Latinos – and trends in their voting behavior – need to be well understood and acknowledged by policymakers and elected officials. Historically, Latinos tend to strongly support Democratic candidates, believing that Democrats are more concerned with the issues that are important to this key constituency. Latinos differ from the general population on many major issues, and there is divergence among Latinos - between the native-born and foreign-born - especially pertaining to immigration. Understanding the Latino vote in the 2010 election is crucial, as this constituency is a must-win for the presidential election in 2012.

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Cracks in the Media Frame Propping Up the Tea Party?

Three weeks after reviewing (and deciding not to cover) Project Vote’s major new survey documenting how out of step the Tea Party’s anti-government agenda is with mainstream voters, the Washington Post has released their own poll confirming many of our findings.

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The Enthusiasm Gap Quantified

Public Policy Polling sums it up nicely:

This year isn't getting away from the Democrats because voters are moving toward the Republicans en masse. But the enthusiasm gap is turning races that would otherwise be lean Democratic into toss ups, turning toss ups into leaning Republican, and turning leaning Republican into solid Republican.

In terms of specifics, PPP examined ten races across the country and found that if the expected 2010 turnout matched the 2008 electorate then these races would either be solid Democratic, leaning Democratic or competitive. For example, Elaine Marshall running for Senate in North Carolina would have a small lead instead of trailing. Indeed, Senate races in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Missouri would be competitive.

On our side, I guess we have the EQ going for us. The EQ? The Extremist Quotient. If it weren't for the fact that the Christian Reconstructionist Sharron Angle is the GOP nominee in Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would be trailing by double digits instead of leading by a point or two. That's an EQ of some 12-15 points. Or take the Alaska Senate race. If Murkowski had won the GOP nomination, she would have led in the polls by 25 points. Now that the Tea Party extremist Joe Miller is the GOP nominee, he leads Scott McAdams by just six for an EQ of 19 points.


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