And just like that... Newt Gingrich is suddenly the front-runner for the Republican nomination.
It is not surprising Gingrich's win of Saturday's primary in South Carolina was due to his strong backing by conservative voters in the state. While Gingrich is no pauper, voters already alienated by Romney's wealth, appear to be balking at his reticence to produce his tax returns. Perhaps, the 99% movement is not just a liberal thing after all?
Though I can't say whether Gingrich will be able to maintain this momentum through the upcoming primary in Florida, I do have a suggestion that I believe would improve his chances significantly:
Gingrich should come clean about his well Documented beliefs on climate change!
Now, before you suggest that this would be political suicide for a "conservative" presidential candidate in 2012, I ask that you please hear me out.
The United States is lagging behind China and Europe in the clean energy race!
The U.S. is the only developed nation where believing in climate science is a political issue. Meanwhile, the rest of the world agrees that climate change is real; and has focused on finding innovative, profitable solutions to mitigate its effects.
When it comes to global investment in clean energy, the U.S. now ranks third, behind China and Germany (respectively). But those numbers understate the issue. In fact, China has actually invested three times more than us. This statistic is even more alarming when combined with the Pew Center study that predicts that the global market for clean energy will reach $2.3 trillion by 2030. Since reviving the sluggish economy and restoring our nation's competitive edge remain key election issues, why are none of the candidates talking about these alarming statistics?
Gingrich's View on the Environment
In 2007, Mr. Gingrich authored a book titled, A Contract with Our Earth, which called for "bipartisan environmentalism" to save the planet. In 2008, he starred in a commercial alongside Nancy Pelosi, for Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection, in which he acknowledged that despite obvious political differences, "we do agree our country must take action to address climate change."
For the past year, revelations like these about Gingrich have been used by his rivals to label him a moderate. Unfortunately, in an effort to appeal to conservative voters, Gingrich has pulled an about-face. According to a recent survey by The Pew Research Center, only 31 percent of Republicans believe in global warming (compared with 77 percent of Democrats). This capitulation was never more evident than when Gingrich cut the chapter on climate change from his soon to be released book.
How the U.S. Can Grab a Slice of the Estimated $2.3 Trillion Global Market for Clean Energy
Republicans have been led to believe that the only way to address climate change is through a combination of higher taxes and new regulations that would burden business owners. This is shallow thinking from the party that touts the merits of free markets and capitalism above all else. If there were a tax on carbon emissions, the market would step in to provide alternatives. In turn, the country would develop new industries and jobs -- putting us on the fast track to grabbing a slice of the estimated $2.3 trillion global market.
To quote the same Pew Center survey: "America's entrepreneurial traditions and strengths in innovation -- especially its leadership in venture capital investing -- are considerable, giving it the potential to recoup leadership and market share in the future."
My suggestion to Mr. Gingrich is that he simply come out and declare that if we want to be serious about reviving our economy, we must have an honest conversation about climate change. After all, the rest of the world is.
Gingrich can state honestly that he has reservations about a cap-and-trade system and a carbon tax, but that he believes capitalism and American ingenuity can find a solution. The words Conservative and Conservation come from the same root. If Gingrich properly demonstrates these connections to his base, and highlights the risk of losing more economic ground to China, Germany and others, I believe he would gain additional supporters.
Honesty Trumps All
Poll after poll illustrates Americans' intense distrust of government. The people want honesty, not political pandering. If Gingrich were to come clean about his true beliefs on climate change, he may just win the nomination and more.
Follow Michael P. Owens on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MichaelOwensNY