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In Elections, "D" for Democrat Brought Doom More than Energy Positions

Environmentalists say public support for clean energy remains strong, though "cap and tax" label fired up the opposition

By Elizabeth McGowan

Nov 5, 2010

WASHINGTON—Smack-down. Shellacking. Drubbing. Pasting. Thrashing. Thumping. Trouncing. Walloping.

Indeed, there are as many words to describe what happened to the Democratic Congress during midterms Election Day as there are analysts to provide Wednesday-, Thursday-, and Friday-morning quarterbacking.

A group of seven environmental advocacy organizations presented one hypothesis to reporters Wednesday afternoon at the National Press Club, and it goes something like this: Energy policy—or lack of it—isn’t what caused voters to ditch enough Democrats to give the GOP a resounding majority in the House and more seats in the Senate. And they say they have the to back it up. (Also see "Poll: Voters Say Economy, Not Energy, Motivated Ballot Decision")

“Obviously, [the elections] were a little disappointing because we did lose a lot of very good friends,” said president Gene Karpinski, adding that jobs and the economy dominated voters’ decisions. “In state after state, some members who voted for clean energy legislation won and some lost.”

While the cap-and-trade bill didn’t solely cause Democrats’ demise, Karpinski did say it was a contributing factor in some congressional districts.

“When you looked at what voters cared about, it was other issues,” he said.  “But in some races [cap and trade] was the most important.”

Some who were tossed out of office Nov. 2, such as freshman Rep. Harry Teague (D-N.M.), championed their vote for cap-and-trade energy legislation on the campaign trail and were pilloried by their opponents for it. Others, such as veteran Ike Skelton (D-Missouri), ducked and covered from their “yes” vote and lost anyway.

As of Friday morning, Republicans had gained 61 House seats, with nine contests still undecided. Beforehand, the lower chamber was made up of 257 Democrats and 178 Republicans. It is being called the largest swing since the 1948 elections when Democrat Harry S. Truman was president.

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