The "Nuevo Dia" Continues

As we have noted on this blog many times, the views of South Florida's Cuban American community are changing, giving the area's GOP incumbents their most serious challenge in nearly 20 years. (You may recall that one of the Democratic challengers is former NDNer, Joe Garcia.) What is allowing this to happen? As Time recently wrote in its article, Big Trouble in Little Havana, there are two reasons: More younger Cuban Americans are becoming eligible to vote, and the Cuba issue is viewed in relation to other issues like the economy, all of which affect South Florida and are believed to have been mishandled by the GOP.

On the New Generation of Cubans and related issues:

But the Miami challenges have caught the GOP off guard. Democratic voter registration in Miami-Dade County, as in other places, is up, and Republican registration is down. Some of the shift stems from elderly voters like Coto, but younger Cuban Americans are restless too. Like their elders, they want to liberate Cuba, but they also want to get by in Miami, where the middle class is shriveling and home foreclosures are soaring. "I'm not running for President of Cuba," says Martinez. "Cuban Americans finally see themselves as part of the wider U.S.A., and they care about other issues." 

On Cuba:

Still, a likely decisive issue in these races involves Cuba. In 2004, as a gift to conservatives, President Bush tightened restrictions on travel and remittances to the island. Cuban Americans--only those who have immediate family members in Cuba--can now visit just once every three years and send only $300 each quarter. The move backfired: most Miami Cubans oppose the new rules, according to an FIU poll, and they have been particularly unpopular among younger Cuban Americans. That was a big reason Miami computer programmer and lifelong Republican Joe Infante, 47, who has relatives in Cuba he can no longer visit, is now a registered Democrat. The regulations, he says, "have kept Cuban families separated but haven't put a dent in the Cuban regime." The move suggests that leaders of Florida's anti-Castro movement may have lost touch with the region's changing demographics. What would have worked in 1985 to deepen GOP support had the opposite effect in today's more diverse Miami. Says Garcia, sipping a café cubano in Little Havana: "Bush succeeded in dividing what was once a monolithic vote for his party." 

All of this will make sense to those familiar with NDN's work on Cuba. In fact, the views represented above are consistent with what we found in our poll from October of 2006. They are also consistent with U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's stance on Cuba, which Fareed Zakaria wrote about a few months ago. (You can see two examples of our coverage of Obama's position here and here.)

For more, check out a forum we held in February of 2007 where we discussed what a Post-Castro Cuba could look like.

Quick '08 Update: Where's the VP?

- Michael Tomasky looks at the difference between the attacks from the GOP (attacks on character) versus those from Democrats (attacks on policy/record). More from Jake Tapper's Political Punch here and here.

- In today's Wall Street Journal, Amy Schatz writes on Google's involvement in the "Big Tent" at the DNCC. She cites Simon on the impact this will have on convention coverage and, more importantly, the likelihood of private discussion for elected officials.

- Check out the statements of both U.S. Sen. John McCain and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama on Musharraf's resignation.

- Simon covers Greg Sargent's piece in TPM on McCain outspending Obama in key states below, but it is definitely worth mentioning again.

- The Washington Post's Dan Balz takes a look at Veep Week Speculation.

- According to the New York Times, Obama is ready to announce his pick for Vice President. Hint: Tom Daschle doesn't think it'll be him.

- Phew, at least we know when McCain will announce his choice for Vice President. 

- Via Jake Tapper, Rich Lowry at the National Review tells us that the McCain campaign is seeking out key GOP state officials for their response to what could be a pro-choice VP.

- As we look ahead to Convention in Denver, check out this op-ed from U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar from the LA Times on "How Democrats can mine the West".

- Marc Ambinder has a playful, but very interesting way of presenting the different feelings he suspects Democrats have about the current state of the Obama campaign.

- Other news: PA Gov. Ed Rendell will be casting his vote during the roll-call for U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton in Denver. In VA, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg is being placed on the presidential ballot by the commonwealth's Independent Green Party.

- Ralph Reed, a long-time friend and associate of Jack Abramoff, was a no-show at McCain's fundraiser last night. The Political Wire wonders who's telling the truth.

- Taking a break from VP speculation, the American Prospect's Dana Goldstein and Ezra Klein show how Obama is more focused on beefing up the Democratic Party than any other candidate in recent history.

- Building on that, the Washington Post's Tim Craig looks at Obama's voter registration efforts in Virginia.

- Hopefully Obama continues to do things like calling to thank his 2 millionth donor along the way. The little things resonate.

- Along those lines, the New York Times takes a look at how the Democrats are presenting their case across the ticket, particularly in Congressional races.

- The LA Times looks at the dual roles of Randy Scheunemann, a top foreign policy advisor to John McCain and former lobbyist for Georgia. Via Think Progress, McCain is proud of supporting Scheunemann's lobbying efforts.

- The McCain campaign clarified itself on two issues we've discussed in these updates: McCain's alleged plagiarism of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and Andrea Mitchell's reporting on whether McCain knew Rick Warren's questions before his turn at the Saddleback Forum.

- Speaker Pelosi emphasized the role of women in changing the country in a video encouraging women in Michigan to vote for Obama.

McCain Outspending Obama on TV in Key Battleground States

Greg Sargent from TPM Election Central has a new post up on the adspend disparities this summer, and where each campaign is buying.

The analysis raises some interesting questions. 1) Do Democrats need to reevaluate their assumption that they will hold a significant fundraising advantage in the fall? 2) Can the Obama campaign afford to stay on the air in unconventional battlegrounds like Alaska and Indiana while the larger more traditional battlegrounds tighten up?

While a great deal has been written about the lessening impact of TV, I think the McCain campaign is demonstrating its lingering power and influence. What is the McCain campaign other than a series of TV ads and videos (that then get played again and again on TV)? Their candidate has receded. They have been speaking through a much more reliable set of messages - edited video, which unlike their candidate, doesn't have that nasty habit of getting way off message. And it has worked - the race has tightened now, and we appear headed into the two Conventions pretty close to tied.

As we look forward to the VP picks of both parties I get the sense that given the way the McCain campaign is being run now, they will attempt to pick a new spokesman for their campaign - someone good looking, telegenic, articulate. Their current spokesman, McCain, has, let us say, lots of limitations. So let him be that vague presence at the end of the ads, show up for the debates and Convention heavily scripted, and let the new guy do a great deal of the heavy lifting.

Quick '08 Update: Big and Specific Ideas Needed

- CNN shows Tropical Storm Fay getting stronger.

- In case you missed the Saddleback Forum, The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan covered it live on his blog.

- On the ad front, PrezVid previews two of U.S. Sen. John McCain's new ads, "Taxman" and "Maybe". Ambinder puts up an ad U.S. Sen. Barack Obama is running on the economy in Colorado.

- CQ wonders whether McCain is once again plagiarizing.

- In the Politico, Ben Smith and Glenn Thrush suspect Obama will announce his Vice Presidential pick this week. Their colleague, Jonathan Martin, keeps speculation in a whirlwind by highlighting U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar's positive feelings for Obama.

- Over at The Atlantic, Marc Ambinder looks at the candidates' schedules and offers his thoughts on the VP selection.

- Bloomberg's Lorraine Woellert points out a flaw in McCain's pitch for nuclear power by looking at the recent nuclear submarine leaks.

- Obama returned to San Francisco to haul in a cool $7.8 million. Jake Tapper has more on the event where Obama showed he was not afraid to go on the offensive.

- On the fundraising front, Seth Colter Walls writes more on what the candidates and party committees raised in July, noting that the DNC outraised the RNC for the first time since October of 2004.

- More trouble in McCainland: LA Gov. Bobby Jindal's had trouble pointing out the "big ideas" being proposed by McCain on Meet the Press. (via Think Progress) Maybe he should've pointed out that McCain wants everyone to have a mansion or be 5-million-dollars rich.

- The New York Times points out that party leaders are also asking Obama to highlight specific policy proposals, giving some substance to his campaign narratives of hope and change.

- McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, will be meeting with NBC to protest Andrea Mitchell's statement about McCain's alleged knowledge of the questions being presented at the Saddleback Forum.

- The New York Times published an in-depth piece on the McCain Doctrine. Meanwhile, Daly Kos reader smintheus highlights McCain's foreign 'policy' problem.

- The countdown to the Democratic National Convention is nearing its end. Wilshire and Washington gives some clues about what each candidate will be doing next week. Continuing the convention theme, Matthew Yglesias posts on the Convention bump.

- Finally, the quote of the day from Political Wire:

"Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century."

-- President Bush, quoted by the Associated Press.

Making the Struggle of Every Day People the Central Focus of the National Debate

In today's New York Times Week in Review, Bill Keller has a thoughtful look at recent events in China and Russia, and what might be called the end of the end of history. I thought Fareed Zakaria captured this sentiment best in his recent book when he described this new era of geopolitics with a simple powerful phrase - Americans are witnessing what he calls "the rise of the rest."

Perhaps after eight years of talk of Basra, Kabul and tax cuts, we will look back at this month as the month that Rip Van Winkle-like Americans woke from their conservative-induced slumber and began to see the 21st century as it is, not as portrayed by the Rovian/Chenesian fantasy of the last eight years.

Perhaps in no area is this new pragmatism more important than on what it means for our people here at home. The next President faces one domestic challenge more important than all the others - how to get wages and incomes rising again.

For most of the Bush era, the American economy performed well by traditional metrics. GDP, productivity, corporate profits and the stock market were strong. But despite this period of growth and strong productivity gains, the typical American family saw its annual income drop by about a $1,000 a year and the rate at which new jobs were created has been slower than any other recovery since the Depression. According to the laws of economics, it was not supposed to be possible to see robust growth in GDP and productivity and see incomes drop. In fact. it has never happened before in the modern economic history of the United States.

Every day Americans figured all this out long before coastal elites did. Our 2007 analysis of public opinion and the 2006 exit polls shows that it was the economy that drove the GOP from office much more than the war. As has been reported in many places, the American people are more unhappy with the state of the nation than anytime since the 1930s. The American people have understood for years that the people running their government has not turned their attention to the most important challenge they face in their own lives - making ends meet in a much more competitive globalized world. And small-bore solutions to this enormous challenge - off shore drilling, children's health insurance, raising the minimum wage, middle class tax cuts - will be treated as they have been treated by the American people these last few years - "that's nice, but where is the long-term, sustained, comprehensive plan big enough to actually improve our lives and the lives of our families?"

Led by Dr. Rob Shapiro, figuring all this out has been the primary focus of NDN's Globalization Initiative these last four years. I won't repeat the major recommendations from our project now, but offer three general observations:

1) It is critical that our political leaders explain to the American people that if we want to maintain our place in the world, and our standard of living, that we will have to "try harder." The rest of the world is rising, catching up, learning our game - as was the goal of foreign policy these last 60 years - and no longer can be seen as characters from an Indiana Jones movie. To compete in this world, this emerging world of the 21st century, we will have do more; invest more; modernize our infrastructure; lessen our dependence on expensive and dirty energy sources; make pensions and health care more portable and accessible; do more to equip our workers and kids with the modern skills they need to compete; accelerate innovation and the formation of "new businesses;" make our global economic liberalization strategies smarter and more modern...this new era must be seen as one of "investment" in a better future, and calls for an anachronistic politics of austerity must be rejected....

2) This economic and public opinion dynamic developed before the recent slowdown, credit crunch, housing crisis and energy/commodity price surge, and thus will not be solved by focusing on these recent developments in the economy. Because incomes went down during a period of sustained growth, the solutions offered by our leaders in the next few years must recognize that the traditional way we help Americans get ahead - by creating macroeconomic growth - is no longer guarenteed to improve the lives of every day people BECAUSE IT DID NOT WORK SO FAR IN THIS DECADE.

3) Given the enormity of this challenge, we here at NDN hope that helping Americans get ahead in this much more competitive world becomes the central focus of the elections this year. In several recent interviews, Senator Obama has said that his three priorities are Iraq, health care and climate change. Not so sure this is the best answer. He needs to be able say that he wants to be judged on whether he can raise Americans' standard of living, and then make doing so the central organizing principle of his campaign and Administration. I think a better response would be "I want to improve the lives of every day Americans who have worked so hard and gotten so little these last few years, and bring the troops home from Iraq." Or something like that.

A risky strategy some might say. For what happens if incomes don't rise? I think we already know the answer to that, as the GOP has shown us in recent years. If the standard of living of Americans don't improve in the next few years, the Democrats should expect to suffer the same fate as the GOP in this decade, and find themselves out of power. Unlike China and Russia, we still are a democracy, and as such, must make the fate of the people of the United States the central focus of our politics...

Obama's Website for the General?

The Obama campaign has made some tweaks for the second time to its campaign website. The latest iteration is much more subtle than the first revamp during the primary process, which included an entirely redesigned site, but seems to be their site of choice to take them through the general election. Below are the new things I noticed about the site on first appearance. If I've missed or incorrectly pointed something out, please let me know!

  • Banner header: The top image of the website has changed slightly. You now see an American flag in the shape of the Obama logo weaved in and two of the campaign's critical action items, donate and find an event, are situated on top of one another. Also, the quote and image of Obama changes (hit refresh a few times) between his first quote about bringing change to Washington and a new quote about his agenda. I imagine this will rotate to reflect the policies Obama is focusing on.
  • Log-in bar: Atop the banner header is a new log-in feature where users can log into their MyBarackObama.com account (or MyBO as they call it). This makes the online community an even more prominent feature on the site, so I'm sure they expect it to continue to play a large role in the campaign.
  • Featured content box: The featured content box now cycles through horizontally, allowing the image in the box to be much bigger and more prominent. Also, I'm wondering if there will be synchronization between the featured policy and the quote in the banner. For example, I wonder if, when the Obama campaign wants to highlight its immigration policy, it will coincide with a quote at the top on the same issue. Just a thought.
  • The Obama brand: A general observation is that pictures of Obama are starting to change at key places. Where before he was superimposed in front of a graphic of crowds, emphasizing his movement, the pictures now are beginning to be superimposed on top of more traditional symbols like American flags.

Quick '08 Update: ABBA, Sec. of Moonshine, and Debates

- U.S. Sen. John McCain finally explained his appreciation for ABBA.

- Always finding ways to keep it light, The Onion has a piece on U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's half-brother who hopes to become Obama's Secretary of Moonshine.

- Anticipating the announcement of Vice Presidential choices, Chris Cillizza looks at the possibilities and weighs in at The Fix. Cillizza also gives a nod to the Obama campaign's agreement to allow U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton's name to be put forth for nomination in Denver.

- Over at AdAge, Evan Tracey uses the latest ad strategies of the campaigns to show that negative advertising could dominate the airwaves over the next 100 days.

- The Atlantic is really writing some interesting stuff. Two pieces from them recently of note are Joshua Green's musing on whether Mark Penn could/would find his way into Obama's campaign, and James Fallows' in-depth piece on what the primary debates showed and what we should expect as we look to the Presidential debates.

- Jake Tapper discusses a recent ad from the Matthew 25 Network that touts Obama's support of families and seems to take aim at McCain's past. The Matthew 25 Network might be hoping that the ad will derail some of the progress McCan has seen in getting the Republican base behind him.

- Wondering who from Hollywood is headed to Denver? Check out Wilshire & Washington for a list of folks planning on attending Starz's Green Room events.

- Matthew Yglesias takes on the RNC for mocking Barack Obama's tendency to take his shirt off at the beach.

- Finally, the obvious statement of the day goes to the McCain Report Blog. Not that McCain shouldn't be allowed on the beach, but the campaign needs to do as little as possible to highlight McCain's age even more. Heck, even T. Boone Pickens joked about McCain's age.

Back to Basics On Energy: It’s the Economy, Stupid

Keith Johnson, of the Wall Street Journal’s Environmental Capital blog, has a solid summary of where the media narrative on drilling sits: Republicans are winning the battle. This narrative is backed by a new Rasmussen poll that has 64 percent of Americans supporting offshore drilling, and 42 percent seeing it as the "best way to reduce oil prices." Rasmussen also tells us that Americans believe McCain wants to find more sources of energy, while they believe that Obama cares more for limiting energy use. Unsurprisingly then, Americans two-thirds of Americans side with McCain’s approach.

The New Republic’s editors make some interesting but debatable points today about how the narrative has gotten to this point, arguing that blaming speculators and going after oil companies may not have been the best plan of attack. TNR also argues that the Obama and Pelosi shift toward allowing more offshore drilling in a compromise bill that would also include support for renewables and efficiency was the second losing move in this argument, and that Democrats’ inability to debunk the drilling idea in the minds of voters was troubling.

As I argued yesterday, the shift on drilling will not be a big deal, and will likely remove drilling as a wedge issue into the fall. The more important voter perception is that Americans believe that Obama cares about energy austerity while McCain wants to do everything he can to increase production. (His actions don’t bear this out, but perception is what matters.)

Whether drilling specifically will be a voting issue is unknown, and this is likely a case where Republicans are winning the battle on drilling but setting themselves up to lose the war on energy as a whole. However, being portrayed as promoting austere energy use is extremely dangerous for Democrats. Obama has already begun to recast the debate on energy about investing in a clean energy economy, which is forward looking, as opposed to the McCain Republican petro-economy of the past, one that, as Michael Moynihan notes, continues to have dangerous ramifications in foreign policy.

At the end of the day, the most important argument to make and win is that energy policy is central to the economy: energy to power the economy, energy impacting American households and families through gas, home heating, and overall prices, and energy jobs and investment allowing average Americans to enjoy the broad-based prosperity they knew in the 1990’s, but that disappeared in the Bush administration. Transitioning to a clean energy economy will not be simple or easy, but, done responsibly, it is a key to future prosperity. Americans already feel austerity in their pocketbooks; being perceived as asking them to feel it in their energy use is not in Democrats' interests, especially when the better option of investing in a clean energy economy exists.

More Evidence of a Sustained Progressive Revival

At the recent Netroots Nation conference in Austin, Texas, the Obama campaign put on a panel about its on and off line organizing. Moderated by New Media Director Joe Rospars, it was a compelling presentation, and I, for one, am still thinking about it a great deal all these weeks later. What was most striking to me was the persistent use of the term "community organizing," and how the campaign, had from the beginning, set out not just to win an election, but to create a lasting progressive movement capable of bringing real change to the country. While these are words spoken by many over many years, you got the sense that the Obama people meant it, and actually have the money, the organization, the candidate, the moment and the determination to do it.

I've been working in politics for two decades now, and for the past five years, I've been involved in various efforts to "build progressive infrastructure" to combat the conservative ascendancy by competing with the right's think tanks, leadership schools, candidate training centers and other organizations. I was an early advocate of the blogs and netroots, which have involved millions of people in politics as never before, and helped bring much-needed vibrancy and debate to left-of-center politics. I was instrumental in launching the Democracy Alliance, a consortium of funders who have channeled hundreds of millions of dollars into progressive organizations. I've also helped provide direct support to several of these groups, including Media Matters, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Democracia USA and what we now call Netroots Nation.

I strongly believe we will look back at this decade and see it as one of extraordinary progressive revival. It has been a time of tremendous institutional entrepreneurship on the center-left, but has also been a time when millions of Americans awakened politically. Dozens of new organizations have been started. Hundreds of new candidates have been elected to office, and once there, they have hired thousands of new staff. Thousands of blogs and bloggers have sprung up, creating a whole new class of thinkers, writers, analysts and powerful voices. The Internet has allowed millions of people to become engaged in a much more meaningful way in the life of their nation. All of this is creating a much larger, more dynamic ecosystem of progressive politics, with millions more activists, making the movement much bigger but also creating a much larger pool of future elected officials, writers and leaders of all kinds. All of this is very exciting to watch.

And into all this comes Barack Obama and his inspirational campaign. Unprecedented crowds, money, volunteers, viral activity, votes and enthusiasm - a sense all along in this campaign that he was summoning something deep inside himself to help inspire us to - as they say - have the "courage to change." He has told us all along that we are the change that we seek, that this campaign is not about him, but about us and our desire to bring about a better America. But is all of this just talk, tactics to get elected?

After listening to the Obama team in Austin, I was convinced that this historic campaign is trying to do much more than win an election. They are going to do everything in their power to unleash the passion of Democrats, progressives, indepenendents, Republicans - Americans - across the country and wage a truly national campaign, hiring staff in all 50 states, unveiling a national voter activist tool, opening up an unprecedented number of field offices, working to expand and redraw the Electoral College map and elect Democrats up and down the ballot in every state and prepare for redistricting in 2010. It is a bold and audacious vision, and one that I now know they intend to work to pull off.

But what made this presentation so powerful was their argument that this vision could only work if they could identify, train and develop a whole new generation of community leaders - in every community - who would become bottom-up advocates for a better nation long after past this election itself. They told a story of one of their community leaders from the South Carolina primary who used the network he built in the primary to run for office for the first time - and amazingly, he unseated a 13-year incumbent by a single vote. They talked as if they understood that this election, and the Obama campaign, was just one piece of a much larger battle to bring change to America itself. They have invested in training thousands of these new leaders in every community across the country - firemen, nurses, teachers, veterans, college kids, moms - who are the foundations of their communities and have become highly trained community and political activists. They will be working this cycle for Senator Obama, but many will continue on to help pass the Obama agenda, elect future Democrats, get involved in local politics and even run for office themselves.

The staff, including a very inspiring Steve Hildebrand, argued that this was Barack and Michelle's vision from the very first day of the campaign - that this was not a fight for him, but for us, for our country, and that if it went well, they needed to build a national movement for change that would long outlast the Senator and that would leave behinds millions of new activists and tens of thousand of new leaders capable of fighting future battles beyond 2008.

As someone who has worked to improve our nation for more than 20 years, I was, simply, blown away by this presentation. For reasons I still don't really understand, the campaign has not talked about all of this work very much, and I felt lucky to have been in the room. I hope that it will be up on the Netroots Nation Web site soon, and I would strongly recommend watching it online if you can.

The Obama effort, coming on top of the already incredible work being done through the progressive movement, makes one believe that a sustained period of progressive dominance, led by many new, emerging leaders across the country, is truly possible now. The ecosystem necessary to build a long and sustained movement for change is rapidly coming together, and it just may be that the Obama campaign's historic organizing effort - the marriage of the grassroots and the netroots -- will become seen as a critical "tipping point" for the long-term success of a new 21st century progressive politics.

NDN will be continuing this important conversation at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. On Tuesday, August 26, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., join us for Two Million Strong, and Growing. During this discussion, I, Internet pioneer Joe Trippi and Google's Peter Greenberger will lead a lively discussion of how a new set of media and technology tools are creating a much more decentralized, people-based model for campaigns and advocacy in the 21st century. Two Million Strong is at the Westin Tabor Center, 1672 Lawrence St., Tabor Auditorium, 3rd Floor Mezzanine Level.

On Thursday, August 28, at 11 a.m., I will take a closer, in-depth look at where American politics is heading in the 21st century in my presentation, The Dawn of a New Politics. The presentation, seen by many progressive leaders and groups across the country, focues on the big changes in media, technology, demography, race and governing agenda which are making the politics of the 21st century very different from the one just past.

So join us at the Hilton Garden Inn, 1400 Welton St., in the Titanium & Zirconium Rooms, 5th Floor on Thursday, August 28.  To learn more about these and other NDN events at the Convention, or to RSVP (recommended) go here

SHOCKER: Offshore Drilling Push from McCain and his Republican Party is Political Posturing

In the surprise of the 110th Congress, it turns out that the pro-drilling position taken by many Congressional Republicans and their presumptive nominee for President may actually have been – gasp – election year politics. The 'Gang of 10,' a group of five Democrat and five Republican Senators, has offered a compromise proposal that would contain both incentives for energy efficiency provisions and a limited expansion of offshore drilling. Barack Obama has said that he would support such an expansion as part of a broader energy bill, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she may allow a vote as long as a bill includes renewable energy and environmental safeguard provisions, but many Congressional Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, are opposed to the bill.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

Republicans have used the offshore-drilling issue to paint Democrats as out of touch with ordinary Americans and beholden to environmental groups that oppose any relaxation of the current drilling ban. Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican's likely presidential nominee, has made Sen. Obama's opposition to offshore drilling a feature in recent ads critical of his Democratic rival.

But the drilling issue could lose its power as an electoral wedge if both parties agree to the concept put forward by a group of Republicans and Democrats. Their proposal would open additional acreage in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida's western coast to drilling, and also allow Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia to "opt in" to drilling off their shores if their legislatures approve.

The plan would also raise billions of dollars for conservation and energy-efficiency programs partly by making oil companies no longer eligible for a manufacturing tax credit and repealing other tax breaks. Some estimates have put the potential savings from such a move at $13 billion over 10 years.

Some conservatives worry that a deal would remove party differences on what they otherwise see as one of the Republicans' best issues for winning over voters in the November election. Conservative radio-show host Rush Limbaugh has accused the Republicans who favor the compromise of giving a "gift" to Sen. Obama and other Democrats seeking election this fall.

Among many Republicans, "there's a desire to not solve this problem" of gridlock over energy policy, said one of the Republicans supporting the compromise, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee. Sen. Corker added that "many people in the Republican Party are missing the point that this is a strong pro-[oil] production bill" and that Republican leaders "made a mistake" by not immediately endorsing it.

This proposal epitomizes the 'all of the above' solution that John McCain and his Republican allies in the Senate claim they support – expanding drilling and investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Sadly, only five have actually acted.

McConnell’s line about "objections to the proposal to eliminate the oil companies' eligibility for a tax credit" is part of his growing charade of election year intransigence. The oil industry receives tremendous direct and indirect subsidies from the federal government; meanwhile McConnell refuses to allow for a straight up or down vote for much smaller tax credits on renewables.

McCain, too, has said that he could not support the bill because it "would raise taxes;" he has since changed to a more 'wait and see' approach. For someone running for president on a supposed record of bucking his party on energy policy, this is certainly not the type of proactive leadership one would expect. (Thomas Freidman calls out McCain today for his lack of action on energy and quotes Suntech America President Roger Efird, one of NDN's panelists from our August 1 event on "Energy and the American Way of Life.")

There is only one conclusion to draw: McCain and Republican opposition to this proposal – which should serve as an important bipartisan step toward some sort of action on energy policy – is nothing more than an attempt to maintain a loosening grasp on drilling as a wedge issue in an election year. By refusing to lend his support to this compromise, McCain and his Republican Party owe America an explanation of what energy reform they are actually for, because behind the pretty windmills in McCain’s ads, there’s no substance.

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