Thursday, August 18, 2011


It's tempting to think that Rick Perry will pay dearly for this -- not in a primary campaign within the ever-crazier GOP, but later, in a general election:

Reporting from Bedford, N.H.-- Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday reaffirmed his view that global warming is an unproven scientific theory that has been advanced, at least in part, by scientists who have "manipulated data," and he argued that programs intended to limit climate change are costing the nation "billions if not trillions" of dollars that he believes could be better spent elsewhere.

"We are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change," Perry told an audience of several hundred voters, business leaders and local officials who gathered for a breakfast in Bedford....

The New York Times, in an article about EPA-bashing by much of the GOP field, argues that cooler heads (as it were) could prevail in November 2012:

But while attacks on the E.P.A., climate-change science and environmental regulation more broadly are surefire applause lines with many Republican primary audiences, these views may prove a liability in the general election, pollsters and analysts say. The American people, by substantial majorities, are concerned about air and water pollution, and largely trust the E.P.A., national surveys say.

Yes, but have you seen Gallup's last survey on climate change, conducted last March? Americans are concerned about warming and think it's caused by pollution, but -- presumably as a result of a relentless messaging campaign by the Republican/corporate noise machine -- their feelings are trending the GOP's way:

Americans continue to express less concern about global warming than they have in the past, with 51% saying they worry a great deal or fair amount about the problem.... That current level of worry compares with 66% just three years ago, and is only one percentage point higher than the low Gallup measured in 1997....

More Than 4 in 10 Say Seriousness of Global Warming Is Exaggerated

The plurality of Americans continue to believe the seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated in the news (43%) rather than generally correct (26%) or generally underestimated (29%). This is the third year in a row that a substantial plurality has believed global warming's effects are not as bad as they are portrayed...

And please note that 43% of independents think the seriousness of global warming is exaggerated in the news.

So what Perry says isn't going to be horrifying to nearly half the center -- and we know it's not going to be horrifying to the right. So I'm sure he'll slide on this.


I'd also direct your attention to this post by Jonathan Bernstein. In it he talks about Perry's radical ideas about Social Security, and argues that they won't hurt Perry even in a general election. I think this line of reasoning extends to Perry's climate talk as well:

... policy positions are just far more likely to matter at this stage than that one. Candidates, campaign, and policy positions are important during nomination battles because there's so little basis for distinguishing between candidates.

But once we get to the general election, most voters will choose on the basis of party, so it doesn't really matter what the candidates say. Even if you're a strongly pro-Social Security Republican, you're still probably going to support Perry if he's the nominee because you agree with him and disagree with Barack Obama on abortion, and guns, and foreign policy, and economic policy, and lots more. Besides, you probably will have a generally positive view of Perry as a person and a generally negative one of Obama.... Indeed, odds are that you'll simply not believe that Perry really means what he says about Social Security.

Odds are that many anti-Obama voters who nevertheless take climate change seriously will vote for Perry anyway, and simply not believe that Perry really means what he says about climate.

Some issue or pronouncement might be the one that marks Perry as nuts, but I think it's going to have to be in some real nerve-striking area -- race, religion -- or be off-the-charts loopy like Christine O'Donnell's witch talk. I think he's quite capable of crossing that line. But not on climate, because his views are, alas, within the pale.

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