A double barrel ad campaign was launched Monday morning with two progressive groups respectively thanking Democratic Senators for voting against a provision that would have ended the EPA's ability to regulate carbon emissions and punishing Republicans who backed the proposal.
Americans United For Change played the role of bad cop, going up on air with a $400,000-plus-ad purchase attacking Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Richard Burr (R--N.C.) for supporting the resolution introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Coming days after the resolution was defeated by a closer-than-expected vote, the ads -- which are already running in Boston against Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass) -- tie the oil spill in the Gulf (with a now-customary shot of a blackened pelican) and foreign threats from abroad (with an always classic shot of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) to energy politics in D.C.
Running in conjunction with the AUC ads will be a good-cop campaign from the group Clean Energy Works, which is airing spots that applaud a number of Democrats for voting against the Murkowski provision. Those receiving the thank-yous include Sens. Michael Bennet (Co.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Harry Reid (Nev.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Mark Warner (Va.), and Jim Webb (Va.), with a group official adding that more are in the works.
Combined, the two spots (and the not-so-insignificant money behind them) reflect a ramped up effort to alter the climate change debate. Murkowski's resolution was an indicator as to what direction the GOP is trying to take the energy conversation. And in that regard, the thank you spots revealed just how serious and anxious the progressive community currently is -- does a vote allowing for the EPA to continue regulating carbon emissions until broader reform is passed really require political protection back home?
Noticeable, in addition, is the unwillingness of these groups to target those six Democrats who actually voted in favor of the resolution: Sens. Mark Pryor (Ark), Evan Bayh (Ind.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Jay Rockefeller (WV), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and Mary Landrieu (La.). During the health care debate, progressive groups grew fed up with many on this list and aired spots in their states. The White House hated those ads. And it will be telling if progressive groups -- which still coordinate with the administration -- took a lesson and choose not to go negative within the Democratic tent.