You can bet on this (let’s say a buck rather than ten grand): Mitt Romney is out on the campaign trail somewhere today trashing the EPA, belittling clean solar and wind energy, dumping on electric cars, and making it sound like we should ditch “apple pie” and start talking about America as being all about motherhood, baseball and coal.
As they look to recover from the disappointing first debate performance, President Obama and his advisors should recognize one central fact: Romney is not taking all of these anti-environmental stances just because his funders and Tea Party backers want him to do so. The other reason is that Romney wants to muddy up these issues precisely because he knows that they can hurt him.
That may sound a little counter intuitive, but it is how the game of politics is played. Its an old strategy – attack your opponent’s strengths to cover up your own weakness (remember how George W. Bush went after Kerry’s 3 purple hearts?) It may be “smart politics” for Romney to protect his exposed flank this way, but it would be nothing short of silly for President Obama to go along with that strategy.
As the President looks ahead to tomorrow night’s debate, here are three compelling reasons for calling Mitt Romney out on his diverse range of anti-environmental stances:
- Let’s not mince words about it: Romney is flat wrong about much of what he says about clean energy and clean air. His debate performance and other recent political claims have been fact checked and debunked far and wide. For Obama, this isn’t a case of having to argue one side of an issue against another. All that is necessary is for President Obama to point out that Romney either doesn’t understand the issues or, even worse, he gets them just fine and he’s fine with making up his own facts about them. (Call me cynical, but my money is on the latter.) Either way, voters are not going to be comfortable with a candidate who can be so cavalier about the truth when our clean air and clean water are at stake. But you need to call out Romney on all of this to make the point, Mr. President.
- President Obama, you have compiled a strong first term record on the environment. Embrace it. Tout it. Shout about it from the rooftops. You have advanced the growth of clean wind and solar power. Your Environmental Protection Agency has made major strides on the Clean Air Act Front while protecting American jobs. And let’s not forget the health benefits of a vigilant EPA: The Obama campaign web site correctly points out that your Administration “established the first national safeguards to cut down on mercury and other toxic air emissions from power plants, which will prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, 540,000 missed work days, and 130,000 cases of asthma each year, helping to keep our children out of the hospital and in school.” This is one of the health standards that Romney would cut down with his plan to “take a weed whacker”to the EPA.It doesn’t stop there: You also are making possible the revival of the U.S. auto industry through increased fuel efficiency standards for autos. These are huge accomplishments that should not be allowed to disappear under a blizzard of Romney lies. You have a hell of a story to tell here, Mr. President. Don’t be bullied into silence on this important topic.
- Voters support what you are doing; don’t let Romney sucker you into ditching what are winning issues. Everyone knows that this election has come down to a narrow band of undecided voters in eight or so swing states. Good news, Mr. President! Recent Public Policy Polling survey of more than 22,000 likely voters in battleground states shows the following: “Undecided voters in eight swing states — Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin — decisively favor candidates for president and Congress who support clean air and clean energy policies over candidates who don’t, according to eight new state-specific surveys.”Romney has come out on the wrong side of the issue again and again – from opposing measures to reduce toxic mercury pollution, to rejecting standards for more efficient autos, to dismissing the need to reduce dangerous carbon pollution. Voters side with your views on these issues, but you still need to get in there and make that point, Mr. President. And it is definitely there to be made!
This whole issue of undecided voters really is the heart of the matter when it comes to the Romney strategy of fuzzing up the environmental issues, Mr. President. If he can get you to stay away from environmental topics in the campaign, you get fewer undecided voters in the key battleground states. In some ways, Romney is running less to persuade those voters to join him than he is to keep you, President Obama, from connecting with them. Don’t fall for it, Mr. President. Not only are you too smart to play Romney’s game, but you’ve got the winning formula in your environmental track record to “seal the deal” in the key swing states.
Tomorrow’s debate is only part of the challenge that the President faces in the coming weeks on environmental issues. Fossil fuel giants and their allies have poured $153 million into campaign ads as of mid-September, and there will be millions more lavished on the dirty air and dirty energy agenda. That fact just makes it even more important that the second debate is one in which President Obama takes back the environmental issues that he already owns in this campaign.