McCain to Tout Biden's "Coal Remarks" on Western Slope

September 2008
Neither Senator Obama nor Senator McCain intend to give up on any Colorado voters. Obama has opened 32 campaign offices in the state, including some in solidly Republican areas. McCain, who has fewer offices here, has decided to run a "get out the vote" effort in, of all places, reliably Democratic Aspen, in Pitkin County. Andrew Travers of the Aspen Daily News reports:
"We will not win Pitkin County," said Frieda Wallison, co-chair of the county's McCain campaign. "But every single vote absolutely counts in Colorado this November."... Wallison is running McCain's upper Roaring Fork Valley campaign and coordinating pro-McCain efforts with between 20 and 30 local volunteers. The nearest official McCain campaign hub -- their "Mesa County Victory Center" -- is in Grand Junction. ... This weekend and next, the McCain campaign is launching its "Victory Blitz," which will put volunteers on the streets locally and across the state, talking to and registering voters, as well as reminding them they can vote early here starting on Oct. 20.
Both campaigns want to reach the unusually high number of unaffiliated voters in the area.
Of the roughly 13,000 voters who have registered to vote in Pitkin County so far this year, the majority of them -- 44 percent -- are neither Democrats nor Republicans, according to Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder Janice Vos Caudill.
On September 23, Travers wrote an article about the steps being taken by the Obama campaign to register voters in Aspen and get them to vote early.
Blanca O'Leary, co-chair of the county's Democratic party went out with a team of canvassers Saturday morning -- "armed with voter registration forms and Obama campaign literature -- to knock on doors and get people on the voting rolls." These local Obama volunteers have been hitting the streets twice every week, on Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons, usually with a team of eight to a dozen. A smaller squad in Basalt does the same.
Obama has mobilized some heavy hitters to stump for him on the Western Slope, including New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Senator Ken Salazar, and the Move-On Group, which will hold a cell-phone party for him, where each attendee is asked to text or call friends and ask them to register and vote for Obama. But, a little wrinkle in the plan may have developed. The Wall St. Journal and several other news organizations have reported in recent days that Joe Biden, while working the rope line this week at an Ohio rally, had this exchange with one of the attendees (video here):
Working the rope line in Maumee, Ohio, the Senator was asked by an environmentalist why he and Mr. Obama support "clean coal." "We're not supporting clean coal," Mr. Biden responded. Then, riffing on China's breakneck construction of new coal plants, he continued, "No coal plants here in America. Build them, if they're going to build them, over there."
McCain's Colorado campaign spokesman, Tom Kiese, thinks Biden's remarks may have given them the perfect opening. Both Barack Obama and John McCain have said they support clean coal technology. Obama actually has an issue paper on his website discussing how he will back it. McCain was in Ohio shortly after Biden made his remarks. He jumped right into the fray:
My opponent is against the expansion of nuclear power," McCain said at a business stop in Strongsville, Ohio. "His running mate here in Ohio recently said that they weren't supporting clean coal, either. And the fact is that their billions of dollars in higher taxes would kill jobs here in Ohio. That's not what Ohio needs and that's not what America needs. My economic focus throughout this campaign has always been pro-growth policies that will create jobs." The hope: That this is one of those hybrid policy-cultural issues that, as with Al Gore's coal views in 2000, enables them to paint Democrats as out of touch on local economic issues and a way of life.
The Obama campaign tried to gloss over Biden's statement:
Senator Biden's point is that China is building coal plants with outdated technology every day, and the United States needs to lead by developing clean coal technologies. The Obama-Biden comprehensive energy plan will invest $150 billion over 10 years in clean energy technologies, including incentives to accelerate private sector investment in commercial scale zero-carbon coal facilities. The Obama-Biden Department of Energy is committed to developing 5 ‘first-of-a-kind' commercial scale coal-fired plants with carbon capture and sequestration here in the United States."
The Wall St. Journal adds:
That an eminence like Mr. Biden is clueless about coal suggests how little official Washington has thought through the consequences of its anticarbon agenda. His blunder is also notable because it exposed the realities that politicians prefer not to voice amid an election campaign. Coal-state voters should be watching what their politicians really have planned for them come January
It appears likely McCain will go after Obama/Biden on the Western Slope by charging they do not have an understanding of the Western need for coal and for their disparate statements, implying one of them isn't being truthful. Will McCain's attack work? Only if Obama can't get voters to read his energy plan on his website, under the heading "Create 1 Million New Jobs." The third of his five proposals says:
  • Develop and Deploy Clean Coal Technology.
    Obama's Department of Energy will enter into public private partnerships to develop five "first-of-a-kind" commercial scale coal-fired plants with clean carbon capture and sequestration technology.