At this moment, Senators and members of Congress are embroiled in the politics of the government shutdown and how it might affect their reelection next year. However, just two weeks ago, EPA unveiled new rules to reduce carbon pollution at power plants and pundits were speculating about how these regulations might shape the 2014 elections.
Those with the strongest ties to the fossil fuel industry would have you believe that addressing global warming is unpopular and that voters prefer politicians who support the dirty energy status quo. However, clean energy candidates can rest easy knowing that support for clean energy and action on climate change are popular and can be an essential part of the recipe for success - even in "red" states.
In Running Clean, our wrap up of the 2012 election, we found that candidates who ran on their positive clean energy records were able to win in competitive elections, even in red states and states with strong fossil fuel industries. Montana, Virginia and New Mexico are home to oil, gas and coal resources yet clean energy champions won hard-fought Senate races in each of these states.
There are two big reasons these clean candidates were successful in tough races.
1. Americans of all political stripes support action on climate change.
The most recent polling finds that 87 percent of Americans support some EPA action on climate change, including 78 percent of Republicans and 94 percent of Democrats. That same poll found that about 75 percent of Americans now say that there is solid evidence that the average temperature has been getting warmer in recent decades, including 61 percent of Republicans.
2. Running clean is part of larger, smarter campaign narrative.
Our research found that successful clean candidates talked about local impacts of climate change and local opportunities from investments in clean energy. They made "clean" part of the values they communicated about siding with families and the future rather than the dirty fuels of the past. And they used clean energy as a way to build coalitions with other local groups. Each of these tactics made clean energy part of building an electoral majority.
Clean energy supporters facing tough match ups should take these facts to heart. Clean energy foes are running $750,000 in ads opposing a carbon tax and the NRSC may be telling folks like Kay Hagan and Mark Begich that they "will be held accountable for supporting a liberal administration that has declared a radical war on coal and American energy development," but they shouldn't believe it. It's true, they'll be held accountable -- but they'll be held accountable by an American public that believes climate change is a serious threat and that we must take action now. Running clean isn't just good policy -- it's good politics too.