Presidential Election Offers Opportunity for Republicans to Lead on Climate

Read and share the new CRES op-ed to learn why the energy debate matters!

As published in Roll Call:

James Dozier, Executive Director, Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions

Republican primary voters have their work cut out for them vetting a burgeoning field of presidential prospects eyeing their party’s nomination. The crop is certainly not lacking for experience with five senators, nine governors, a fortune 500 CEO, and a neurosurgeon. With so many potential nominees crisscrossing the early primary states it’s increasingly clear that candidates will likely end up declaring victory in early nominating contests by barely acquiring double-digit support among voters.

The size of the field, the smaller vote shares needed for victory, and the glut of Super PACs are compounding the need for candidates to set themselves apart from the rest of the field. Traditionally this has required candidates to follow a predictable playbook: spend hard dollars bloodying fellow Republicans earlier and earlier, moving as far to the right as possible. That commitment of time, money, resources, and ideological purity has proven costly in recent campaign cycles. Thus, the ultimate sacrifice becomes our party’s viability in the general election

This year carries the potential to be different on a variety of issues. Specifically, a division is emerging within the Republican field on environmental issues and public policy, the margin of victory in early states may rest with conservation-minded conservatives.

The fact is that in the early primary states there is a sizeable cohort of the GOP primary electorate that is tired of ceding the issue of environmental sustainability to liberals. This coalition of persuadable voters – notably comprised of suburban woman, Republican-leaning independents, and millennials – wants to hear the GOP field offer conservative solutions that seize upon the free market to create jobs, protect our tax dollars, and preserve our climate.

Earlier this year, Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES) commissioned a field survey, conducted by TargetPoint Consulting, of Republican primary voters in New Hampshire and South Carolina on energy and the environment. The polls found:

  • Republican primary voters support placing greater emphasis on diversifying our energy sources to include wind, solar, and hydropower (53% in N.H. and 48% in S.C.).
  • Millennial Republicans believe there should be a greater emphasis on renewable energy (59% in N.H. and 61% in S.C.).
  • A strong majority (57%) of N.H. Republican primary voters favor the federal government taking steps to reduce emissions that cause global climate change. In S.C., a plurality (48%) of Republican primary voters support such action.
  • 67% of N.H. and 57% of S.C. GOP millennial support actions by the Federal government to limit carbon emissions.
  • Overwhelming majorities in both states said that strengthening national security with energy independence, being responsible stewards of God’s creation, and leaving a legacy of clean air for future generations are the important reasons for taking action to preserve the climate.

It is not just in polling where we see increased support from Republicans on energy and the environment. In January, fifteen GOP senators voted in support of an amendment to the Keystone XL Pipeline bill that acknowledged climate change was real and humans are impacting it. Of those fifteen senators, two are now formally announced candidates for the Presidency – Rand Paul (KY) and Lindsey Graham (SC) – and six others face competitive races for reelection – Ayotte (NH), Kirk (IL), McCain (AZ), Murkowski (AK), Portman (OH), and Toomey (PA).

In the past, Republicans had been reticent to even discuss such federal action on climate change in GOP primaries. But they should know that half of the Republican primary voters surveyed in New Hampshire and South Carolina support these recent votes cast by Senators Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte on the significant impact humans are having on climate change.

This spring at the N.H. GOP Leadership Summit I met with hundreds of Republican activists who believe now is the time for Republicans to lead on environmental issues. They are ready for a nominee who will make the case for renewed Republican leadership on our economic, national, and climate security. It is the mission of CRES to remind voters that economic prosperity and environmental security are not “either/or” propositions, and that protecting God’s creation should be part of any serious conservative issue agenda in 2016. It’s not just the right thing to do – it’s increasingly the smart political thing to do.

James Dozier is the Executive Director of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, which is committed to promoting common sense solutions that enhance America’s energy and environmental security. Visit to learn more about the polling.

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