This post emerges from some a number of sources including some recent polls and articles that I will reference, some discussions with conservatives in other countries, and Rob Bluey’s recent blogger lunch on the topic.
Let me start with a summary of where the GOP candidates are on the issue.
As many know, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani are clear proponents of the position that global warming is happening and caused by human activity. Of the second tier candidates, you have Mike Huckabee who is probably to the left of McCain and Giuliani. Sam Brownback is also on the side of taking action to address global warming.
As usual, Mitt Romney is straddling the fence of the issue, (list of quotes here) although his recent position suggests that he will be willing to cooperate with people in the party who are opposed to interventions. Although in his recent interview on Kudlow, he responds to a question about taxes and caps by only answering the tax question
So, the top tier of candidates (Giuliani, McCain, Thompson, and Romney) is split, with Thompson being the only real skeptic. And much of the serious 2nd tier is with or to the left of McCain and Giuliani. (more on this in a second)
Now, let me point to two other things. First, the Concord Monitor recently said:
In November and December, the Mellman Group surveyed likely Republican and Democratic voters, 400 of each, for two climate awareness groups: Clear the Air and the New Hampshire-based Clean Air-Cool Planet. Seventy percent of Republicans and 94 percent of Democrats called global warming a serious threat, though smaller majorities in both parties said they believed it was a human byproduct. Ninety-six percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Republicans said the United States should take action now to reduce emissions.
As of yesterday, 143 New Hampshire communities had approved language calling on Washington to take action to slow U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide. Eight towns had rejected it and at least 25 have yet to vote.
Now some analysis. First, it is highly unlikely that this is a vote-moving issue for Republican primary voters. If it is really that important to a voter, the voter is probably a Democrat. However, this may be an issue that independents might cross-over on. Second, if anyone does, those votes are probably already going to McCain or Giuliani, so there may not be much incentive for other candidates to take strong positions in favor of some sort of government response.
However, as McCain’s town hall speech above indicates, this issue may have a different sort of traction in Iowa, where talking global warming is a way of talking about ethanol and corn subsidies. The combination of a subsidy hungry Iowa and a green New Hampshire may make a more green position. Furthermore, the (phony?) issue of oil independence gives another pressure and excuse to move to the middle. Also recent statements by the Catholic Bishops and the National Association of Evangelicals may provide some cover, although the statements by Dobson show that there will be pushback. (incidentally, I still don’t know what it means that the candidates filling the Christian conservative space are with the religious groups but not the conservative groups on this issue. It reminds me of immigration)
Another issue that McCain brought up is nuclear energy. In the UK, the Labour party has used nuclear as a way to square the circle of lower emissions and more energy. However, the presence of Nevada in the early primary calendar, along with a Senate Majority Leader from that state, makes it highly unlikely that the Dems are going to be moving much.
In conclusion, the front runners on the GOP side seem to be open to the idea of government intervention on the issue of global warming. This may move the party to the middle on the issue. At the same time time, the Dems are probably stuck with an anti-nuclear position until some alternative to Yucca Mountain emerges.