Campaign 2016

ClimateWire's Lehmann discusses changing dynamics on climate in Republican primary race

With no shortage of drama among Republican presidential candidates on climate change, how will climate play in early primary states? On today's The Cutting Edge, ClimateWire deputy editor Evan Lehmann explains how the Republican candidates differ on their views on climate change and talks about the effect changing party dynamics are having on early primary voters.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. The politics of climate change making its way into the Republican primary race. ClimateWire's new deputy editor, Evan Lehmann, joins me. Evan, congratulations on the new gig.

Evan Lehmann: Thank you very much.

Monica Trauzzi: So, Evan, there's been no shortage of drama among Republican presidential candidates on climate change, and the game really seems to be changing in terms of how establishment candidates are being treated in the polls. What are the key dynamics that are emerging in the early primary states on climate change?

Evan Lehmann: You're seeing two themes sort of emerge, and the first is that almost all the candidates, whether they believe in climate change or don't, are attacking President Obama for putting climate change so high on his national security agenda over ISIS and things like that, they say. And you also see them attack the Clean Power Plan. Some of them call it illegal. All of them, virtually, have promised to roll it back if they're elected. The other side, the other part of the theme is that two candidates -- Trump and Cruz -- are questioning the science, and Trump called it a hoax recently, and Cruz has held a hearing last month that called it liberal dogma. And that's helping them in the polls in Iowa.

Monica Trauzzi: So there are some real dividing lines among the candidates on what they're saying, the message that they're delivering on climate change.

Evan Lehmann: Yeah, there are. It's interesting because in New Hampshire, you see the moderate candidates like Bush and Kasich and Chris Christie not really talking about it at all. They don't see any upside to talking about their belief in climate change, and it could just expose them to attacks from Trump and Rubio and Cruz. So that's interesting.

Monica Trauzzi: But those three aren't doing well in the polls in New Hampshire.

Evan Lehmann: Christie is on the rise in New Hampshire, and it's attracted the attention of Rubio, whose political action campaign, or committee, rather, has released an ad this week that accuses Christie of loving liberal energy policy. Christie, as you know, has endorsed a lot of solar initiatives in New Jersey, and in August passed signed legislation that would increase net metering for solar.

Monica Trauzzi: You spoke with Andrew Smith, the director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, for a story that ran this week in ClimateWire, and he contends that Trump is doing really well because voters aren't paying close attention yet. Trump is getting huge crowds at his rallies, though. What's your take on how savvy voters are at this point?

Evan Lehmann: Yeah, you know, he said something that was interesting. He said that there's this myth that New Hampshire voters are all political pros. And he says it's just not true. You know, the exit polling from 2012 showed that 47 percent of primary Republican voters didn't decide who to vote for until three days before the election, and 19 percent didn't make that decision until one day before the election. So there's a large proportion of New Hampshire primary Republicans who haven't made up their mind yet. And with swings like that, Trump's 13-point lead could evaporate pretty quickly.

Monica Trauzzi: It's really interesting to watch these changing dynamics. Thank you, Evan.

Evan Lehmann: Thank you.

Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.

[End of Audio]



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