The Hillary Clinton Potomac Primary Climate Check

by Rick Rockwell

The sample ballot for the Maryland Democratic Primary arrived this week. It’s all part of the regional primary, dubbed locally as the Potomac Primary, for Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. (Only the pundits on CNN call it the Beltway Primary.)

Between now and Tuesday night when the Potomac Primary finishes, the Democrats will select 476 more delegates in six states and D.C. (Washington State, Louisiana, and Nebraska hold caucuses and primaries tomorrow, and Maine decides Sunday.) And what choices abound!

Scanning the ballot, it boils down to former Sen. Mike Gravel and Uncommitted.

What? You expected support for the front-runners here?! Those two were dispatched like sushi under a sharp kitchen knife weeks ago. (For the Hillary Clinton diatribe, please go here. For the Barack Obama diatribe, please go here.)

Likely, these races will continue to tell us the same thing as Super Tuesday: the Democrats are almost equally divided but Sen. Clinton has a razor-thin edge. (She actually won the overall popular vote on Super Tuesday.) This trend is so troubling that former Gov. Howard Dean who heads the Democratic National Committee noted that a brokered convention in August will not serve the party.

For some of us though, that’s the only hope. Maybe then the Democrats will get serious about a candidate who should have been president already: former Vice President Al Gore.

Let’s stack Gore up against Sen. Clinton’s scorecard on the only three issues that matter: the Iraq War; the environment; and the economy. Using those issues, Gore scores as best on at least two. However, Clinton’s claim on the economy, already documented here as one of her key strategies, leans heavily not on her record but her husband’s record.

Is it any wonder that some are angling for Gore to endorse Sen. Obama (D-IL) so these notions of a brokered convention will go away? (Is it really likely Gore will endorse Sen. Clinton after the mostly cold shoulder the Clintons gave him in 2000 and how he had to compete for President Bill Clinton’s attention on the policy front when he was part of the Clinton administration?)

Let’s boil this down to just Gore’s key issue: the environment. When all is said and done, that’s the most important issue because if we can’t breathe, or we can’t grow crops, then all these other policies will be a basket full of moot points.

Sen. Clinton’s scorecard on the environment is quite strong. She gets a lifetime rating of 90 (on a 100-point scale) from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) for her years in the Senate. The Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) gives Clinton its top rating for Senators. The CAF says Clinton has the boldest stances of all the presidential candidates on energy issues and calls her the toughest on Big Oil. Similarly, Obama is ranked highly by the LCV with a 96 lifetime ranking (but for only two years) and 100 by the CAF.

However, Clinton’s record dipped to a 71 by the LCV in 2006 (the last year available for such ratings) and although she has an extensive environmental platform, she pushes the key issue of higher emissions standards for autos off until the year 2030. As with many presidents, looking closely at her plan reveals there’s not much in the short or medium term to go with her long-term plans (which are essential) and so those long-range efforts can easily be dismantled after four years or eight years.

Truthfully, though, how can either Clinton or Obama really hold a candle to someone like Gore who won the Nobel Prize for his environmental efforts. All the Republicans, save for McCain, usually resort to running against Gore’s environmental ideas, although Gore isn’t campaigning for office.

So, when it comes to making a decision for Tuesday, with the environment in mind, it’s time for the write-in ballot. Plenty of other voters feel similarly, with at least 15 percent of the Democrats undecided with the choices offered leading into Super Tuesday. This time, it won’t be Gravel or even Mr. Undecided. Gore gets this vote.

For more background on the 2008 campaign, please see these archival posts:

(Political graphic by AZRainman, via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License. To see more of AZRainman's work, please check out his blog.)

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