Trump Campaign Considers Shift on Climate Change to Win Reelection

By Siegel, Josh | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, November 7, 2019 | Go to article overview

Trump Campaign Considers Shift on Climate Change to Win Reelection


Siegel, Josh, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


President Trump's reelection campaign is feeling pressure on the issue of climate change. It plans to adopt pro-environment messaging to win key states such as Florida and appease important voter demographics that are moving toward Democrats.

The campaign is responding to consistent polling that shows young people and suburban swing voters are increasingly concerned about climate change and its effects on extreme weather.

"Republicans may not be able to grow their base in 2020, but they can't afford to lose any voters," said Dan Eberhart, CEO of the oil services firm Canary and a Trump donor. "The voting block that's at biggest risk is educated suburban women who have been turned off by Trump. GOP polling shows that they care about climate."

The campaign is also reacting to pressure from Republicans in Congress who have sought to propose their own agenda to counter the Green New Deal, which could be overshadowed by Trump's rhetoric expressing skepticism of climate change.

"The campaign definitely needs to recognize that people are concerned about climate change and develop reasonable, effective ways to address the issue," said a Trump campaign adviser.

Still, the Trump administration will not diverge over the next year from its policy agenda of boosting fossil fuel production and easing regulations. It also won't be introducing any significant policies to combat climate change to match or counter Democratic opponents' aggressive plans to eliminate coal, oil, and gas to reach net-zero emissions by midcentury.

"They are trying to put lipstick on a pig," said former Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, who lost a blue-leaning district in 2018 while promoting an aggressive environmental agenda. "The president's policies result in more carbon pollution. You can say nice things and say you are for clean air, clear water, and apple pie, but the truth is in the math."

The administration is instead shifting how it talks about climate change, while the campaign looks to promote other aspects of its environmental record that cover more traditional agenda items, such as cleaning up toxic waste sites and combating lead in drinking water.

"It's hard to fight something with nothing," said Mandy Gunasekara, a former senior EPA official in the Trump administration who runs Energy 45, a nonprofit organization she established to support the president's energy agenda. "The challenge for the campaign is to explain Republicans do have something. There is a goal to focus more on the positive story. This isn't reinventing the policy or legal wheel."

The Trump campaign is publicly reluctant to acknowledge any new strategy or shift in emphasis.

"President Trump continues to advance realistic solutions to reduce emissions while unleashing American energy like never before," said Sarah Matthews, the campaign's deputy press secretary, who went on to attack the "radical" Green New Deal.

Trump is sensitive to criticism that he is waffling on any issue that registers with his conservative base. He barely addressed climate change in the 2016 campaign, and he frequently mocks it at rallies, attacking windmills and accusing Democrats of threatening U.S. prosperity by proposing big spending programs.

"The big question would be: How can they shift in a way that doesn't look like the president is flipping for pure political reasons, and how do they shift in a way that works not just for the president, but the base?" said a former Trump administration official.

Conservative allies and fossil fuel industry supporters would prefer that Trump didn't change anything about his stance and rhetoric on climate change, deeming it an unnecessary cave given how little environmental issues mattered in 2016.

"Maybe the campaign tries to throw some softballs on his teleprompter, but I don't see it being a change in strategy or policy in terms of what they are trying to achieve," said Tom Pyle, president of American Energy Alliance and Trump's former Energy Department transition chief. …

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