The Dangers of "Synchronized Flip-Flopping"
By Al Giordano
That’s the phrase that Jonathan Alter of Newsweek used on Keith Olbermann’s program to describe the simultaneous change in stances on offshore drilling by Senator John McCain and Florida Governor Charlie Crist:
Olbermann also pointed out in that broadcast that the synchronization between the presumptive Republican nominee’s flip from opposing offshore drilling to now favoring it and President George W. Bush’s press conference yesterday to push that stance trips up another big theme that McCain has been trying very hard to promote: that he is somehow independent from the unpopular US president of his party.
Not all Republicans on coastal states threatened by offshore oil drilling are signing up for duty, though.
The Press of Atlantic City, New Jersey, reports:
“New Jersey lawmakers and candidates from both parties Tuesday criticized Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain's proposal to lift the federal ban on offshore oil and gas drilling. U.S. Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo, R-2nd, was among those who suggested shifting the focus to the nation's 68 million acres leased for drilling that hasn't happened. ‘We must not gamble with our beaches and tourism industry,’ LoBiondo said. He and fellow Rep. Jim Saxton, R-3rd, last year voted against an unsuccessful attempt in the House of Representatives to allow natural-gas drilling offshore…"
The Asbury Park Press reports that former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, Republican and former director of the US Environmental Protection Agency, is likewise “cool to McCain’s plan.”
The Newark Star-Ledger notes that Republican US Senate candidate in New Jersey, Dick Zimmer, put out a hurried press release to disassociate himself from the synchronized flip-flop:
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dick Zimmer issued a statement this afternoon saying he opposes Bush's effort and is "strongly against any drilling or exploration off the New Jersey coast or in any area that poses a risk to our beaches."
The South Jersey Courier-Post chronicles Republicans distancing themselves from McCain on the offshore drilling issue:
Several New Jersey Republicans also have expressed opposition, including Reps. Chris Smith, R-Hamilton; Jim Saxton, R-Mount Holly, and Frank LoBiondo, R-Ventnor. They argue that exploring for oil and natural gas fewer than 100 miles from New Jersey’s southernmost point could wreak environmental havoc in case of an oil spill.
McCain has not only undercut, with this gambit, his previous efforsts to distance himself from Bush, but he’s provoked downticket Republicans to begin to distance themselves from him.
As for some of the “Chicken Littling” that going on in some corners about polls that show Americans are suddenly in favor of offshore drilling due to high gas prices, such clucking reveals an especially shallow reading of polling data and what it means.
People vote all the time for candidates with whom they may disagree on an issue. Almost no voter agrees with either candidate on every matter of policy. The real question is which voters see a particular issue as “outcome determinative” for their votes, and that usually involves intense self-interest or ideological passion. For property owners along the shores of some traditionally Republican presidential swing states like Virginia, Florida and North Carolina, where the Democrat Obama is playing to steal the ball, and also in some traditionally Democratic swing states where the Republican McCain needs to pull off a surprise or two in order to win the Electoral College majority - New Jersey, Oregon and Washington (not to mention California) – the matter of offshore drilling is more outcome determinative in that those voters have home, vacation home, and business interests in preserving the shoreline and the tourism and other industries that depend on it. Many of them are Independents and Republicans. In his attempt to pander on gas prices with a proposal that won’t lower them one penny (nor create new oil productions for at least five years), McCain risks pushing away sectors of voters that might otherwise cast their ballots for him.
And since coastal dwellers and business owners are easily targeted and reachable through zip-code based direct mail campaigns, door-to-door volunteer canvassing, and telephone phone-banking, the campaign with superior organization and funding will have the advantage in pulling these swing voters into his camp.
Update: Perhaps this is related: Readers here from Florida have now reached the threshold strength of membership to become Field Hands Local #15. ¡Salud!