TOPICS > Politics

Obama, Democrats try to strike balance on climate change, energy politics

BY Domenico Montanaro, Terence Burlij, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe  May 6, 2014 at 8:58 AM EDT
The mountains, trees and meadows surrounding this famous high-elevation lake suffered from the effects of an extended drought as viewed on March 17 in South Lake Tahoe, California, with 2013 the driest year in recorded history. Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

The mountains, trees and meadows surrounding this famous high-elevation lake suffered from the effects of an extended drought as viewed on March 17 in South Lake Tahoe, California, with 2013 the driest year in recorded history. Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Obama leans into climate change
  • But Democrats remain divided on Keystone
  • Another good poll for Republicans
  • McConnell pivots to general election
  • The Iowa candidate who brought you castration is now packing heat in her purse

Climate change: President Barack Obama is leaning into climate change Tuesday with the release of the third U.S. National Climate Assessment, a 1,300-page report on climate change that warns of dire consequences. The president will be speaking to meteorologists across the country, and senior officials in the White House are hosting an event at 2 p.m. ET. The Washington Post: “After years of putting other policy priorities first — and dismaying many liberal allies in the process — Obama is now getting into the weeds on climate change and considers it one of the key components of his legacy, according to aides and advisers.” Yet, for all the red flags the White House and Democrats will raise on climate change, as Pew noted from its polling data: “The American public routinely ranks dealing with global warming low on its list of priorities for the president and Congress. This year, it ranked second to last among 20 issues tested.” And there’s a sharp partisan divide with 42 percent of Democrats ranking it as a top priority with just 27 percent of independents and 14 of Republicans saying so.

Keystone complication: But on one issue of importance for environmental activists, the Keystone XL Pipeline, the president is still undecided. The Obama administration delayed a decision until after the election. And vulnerable, red-state Democrats are pressing for approval. “It is time to stop studying and start building,” Mary Landrieu, chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has said. Republicans want to attach a Keystone amendment to an energy-efficiency bill (debate begins on the bill at 11 a.m. ET Tuesday and a cloture vote is expected on it later in the day). But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid doesn’t want to do that. Instead, Reid is willing to give on a binding, stand-alone Keystone bill if Republicans will let the energy-efficiency bill get an up-or-down vote and not be filibustered, according to a top Democratic leadership aide, who charges that Republicans are shifting their demands. Republicans say Reid again is refusing amendments from Republicans. With Senate control hanging in the balance, a lot is made of the Republican intra-party splits, but this is one issue where Democrats are divided.

Start your voting! Three states are set to vote today — North Carolina, Indiana and Ohio. Here’s our full Morning Line preview from Monday. Polls close in Indiana at 7 p.m. ET; North Carolina (where most of the action is) and Ohio close at 7:30 p.m. ET.

More good poll news for Republicans: A new CNN/ORC International poll released Monday gave Republicans a narrow 46 percent to 45 percent advantage among registered voters on the generic ballot, a split that tracks with other recent surveys and reflects the challenge facing Democrats in November. Given the traditional pool of midterm voters and the Republican-leaning nature of congressional districts, anything less than a comfortable lead on this metric is worrying news for Democrats. While the president is minus-12 in his approval/disapproval ratings (43 percent approve to 55 percent disapprove), a majority of voters said they wouldn’t base their vote on Mr. Obama’s job performance. A quarter of those polled said they would send a message against the president, while 20 percent said their vote would signal support for Mr. Obama. The lack of enthusiasm on the part of Democrats could be a concern in generating turnout on Election Day. If there is a silver lining for Democrats in the survey, the party outperformed Republicans on the specific question of control of the Senate. Forty-five percent of respondents said the country would be better off with Democrats in the majority, while 42 percent said they would rather have Republicans in charge.

Batman! Superman! Mitch McConnell! Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) is up with a new ad that focuses on how he’s brought jobs to Kentucky. “He’s been called a hero for saving Kentucky jobs,” an announcer says in a new $100,000 ad buy airing statewide beginning Tuesday. “Mitch McConnell works for Kentucky jobs,” the ad concludes. The AP notes, “[T]he message of the ad could indicate McConnell’s worries. Just last month, a local newspaper quoted McConnell saying it was ‘not my job’ to bring employment to a struggling Kentucky county. He said that role belonged to the state commerce department. McConnell said his comments were taken out of context, but the latest ad suggests his team saw the gaffe as driving voters’ perception of McConnell, especially as Grimes piled on criticism.”

Grimes’ campaign released a statement this morning that read, in part: “Mitch McConnell has been in Washington for 30 years, yet never proposed a jobs plan for Kentucky,” said Jonathan Hurst, a Grimes senior adviser. “Instead, he has turned Washington into a gridlocked embarrassment, putting himself and his party first.” By the way, anyone hear the name Matt Bevin anywhere in all this?

Joni Ernst goes from castrating pigs to riding a hog (and packing heat): The Iowa Republican Senate candidate is out with a new ad that showcases her appreciation for motorcycles, firearms and limited government. “Joni Ernst will take aim at wasteful spending. And once she sets her sights on Obamacare, Joni’s gonna unload,” the ad’s narrator says as Ernst fires off rounds at a target. In her debut ad, Ernst highlighted her experience growing up on an Iowa farm castrating pigs to talk about her commitment to cutting spending. With a crowded GOP primary field, the spots are sure to make Ernst stand out. She also got a boost Monday in the form of an endorsement from Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1957, then-Senator John F. Kennedy was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his book “Profiles in Courage.” How many American presidents have won this award?
Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia, and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Josh Silberberg ‏(@jsilberberg) for guessing Friday’s answer: Irwinville, Georgia.

LINE ITEMS

  • Top American companies like Alcoa, Goldman Sachs, PepsiCo, Morgan Stanley and ConocoPhillips have cancelled plans to attend an international economic forum hosted by President Vladimir Putin in Russia, after the Obama administration strongly urged them to pull out.

  • Members of the Russian punk rock protest band Pussy Riot will hold a press conference on Capitol Hill with Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission at 11:30 a.m. ET Tuesday.

  • We can add judicial races to the list of campaigns that outside groups are forking over money for. In North Carolina, an attack ad against Justice Robin Hudson was paid for by a group that had recently received a large donation from the Republican State Leadership Committee in Washington.

  • Hillary Clinton speaks at the National Conference for Behavioral Health at 10 a.m. ET.

  • Later this month Hillary Clinton will headline a fundraiser for former Pennsylvania Rep. Marjorie Margolies, who also happens to be Chelsea Clinton’s mother-in-law.

  • Vice President Joe Biden will raise money for South Carolina Democrats Friday before delivering the University of South Carolina’s commencement address.

  • Sen. Mark Pryor, R-Ark., isn’t afraid to be seen with the president. At his invitation, Mr. Obama will make his first presidential trip to Arkansas on Wednesday to tour tornado damage.

  • The House Ethics Committee is continuing its investigation of Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who’s accused of keeping a staffer-turned-lobbyist on his congressional payroll for 10 years.

  • Massachusetts is ditching its broken Health Connector website because it’s too hard to repair. The state will prepare to temporarily join the HealthCare.gov marketplace in case their new site is not ready by the Fall.

  • Here’s a way to win re-election: Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor, helped save a woman’s life by performing CPR on her.

  • Mr. Obama’s pick for the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit might be too liberal for Republicans, and even some Democrats, to confirm.

  • The House Finance committee holds a hearing at 10 a.m. ET on funding federal highways. The fund fund is expected to be empty by the end of August, and likely will become an issue in coming weeks, per NewsHour’s Quinn Bowman.

  • Republicans in Missouri successfully overturned Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a tax bill that will now dramatically decrease personal income taxes.

  • Republican Sid Dinsdale has shaken up the financing field in Nebraska’s Senate race by loaning his campaign $1 million in April.

  • The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-to-4 decision Monday that legislative bodies can open meetings with prayer without violating the Constitution’s prohibition against government establishment of religion. Gwen Ifill spoke with the National Law Journal’s Marcia Coyle about the decision.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

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Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

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