GOP Candidates Attacking Dems for Positions They Don't Hold

01/14/2010 09:33 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

As soon as the House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act last June, Republicans went on the offensive. Within days, they had launched radio and television ads targeting 14 Democrats who had voted for the measure. Other than the blatant falsehoods in the ads, I have no problem with Republicans attacking Democrats for voting for or against a particular piece of legislation.

But in the past few days, they've taken things a step further. West Virginia businessman Mac Warner, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Alan Mollohan, made his case to CQ Politics on Tuesday:

"I'm running because I'm frustrated with the way things are going," Warner told CQ Politics Tuesday. "I see that we're heading in the wrong direction with so many of the different components of the economy."Warner opposes a Democratic-written health care bill as well as a "cap and trade" climate change bill that he said would be "devastating" to West Virginia's coal-dependent economy.

"Cap-and-trade takes a direct aim at the heart of the West Virginia economy," Warner said.

You wouldn't realize from listening to Warner's tough talk, but Mollohan voted against the legislation, explaining his rationale as follows:

"As currently drafted, this legislation is not in the best interests of my constituents, and it's not in the best interests of West Virginia," Mollohan said. "For the past several weeks, I have joined the electric utility industry, the coal industry, the United Mine Workers of America, and other coal state Representatives on negotiations to improve the legislation. We have made significant progress on a number of fronts that together would hold down the cost of electricity to residential and industrial consumers, that would help level the playing field for our steel and manufacturing industries that face international competition, and that would enable the electric power industry to continue to burn West Virginia coal. As a result of our efforts, the bill is much improved from the original draft, but it still falls short in several key areas, and I cannot support it."

If this were a one time occurrence, it may not have been noteworthy. But Warner isn't alone in this tactic. State Senator Gilbert Baker is running in the Republican primary for the opportunity to challenge Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln. Here is how a local paper characterized the criticisms Baker made of Lincoln at a campaign event on Monday:

He criticized Lincoln for voting for the health-care bill and favoring a climate bill that he said would raise utility bills by $100 a month.

Leaving aside the absurd claim that the bill would raise utility bills by $100 a month, Senator Lincoln has been very clear that she does not in fact support clean energy legislation:

"The legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives has done nothing to ease these Arkansans' apprehensions. The House's Waxman-Markey bill picks winners and losers and places a disproportionate share of the economic burden on families and businesses in rural America. It is a deeply flawed bill. I will not support similar legislation in the Senate.

I'm not here to defend Rep. Mollohan or Senator Lincoln. I think their opposition to clean energy legislation is extremely misguided. But Republican challengers in November's Congressional elections should run against Democrats for their actual positions, not the boogie-man positions they imagine them to have.