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Another Issue for the GOP

10:06 AM, Mar 4, 2012 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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Kim Strassel had an excellent piece in Friday’s Wall Street Journal about another issue — in addition to Obamacare — that President Obama has gift-wrapped for the Republican party and for the wider cause of limited government.  She writes,

Newt

“[Newt] Gingrich is bequeathing something to his party: energy…. He’s [now] touching on a brand-new energy vision, as well as honing what ought to be one of the party’s most effective criticisms of Barack Obama this fall.”

Strassel explains:

“Mr. Gingrich’s savvy has been to grasp that…America is embarking on a seismic energy shift. A decade of technological advances — from 3-D mapping, to fracking, to horizontal drilling — has turned this country into a resources monster in oil and gas and coal. The old, tired GOP argument is that we need to drill for energy security. The new, rebooted argument is that America is primed to become the largest energy producer in the world, with all the money, jobs and benefits that come with it.

“In the context of abundance, energy development is political gold for the GOP. As Mr. Gingrich notes: It is a winning economic argument, a shift that could create ‘more than a million new jobs.’ It is a winning deficit argument, since royalties and profits become a new cash stream to the government. It is a winning little-guy argument, since the beneficiaries of fracking are ‘people who own the property,’ like ‘farmers.’ It’s a winning heartland argument, since cheap natural gas is the way to ‘increase our manufacturing base.’”

However, Strassel warns, if Republicans instead pin their energy sales-pitch almost entirely to high gas prices — much as Mitt Romney has pinned his presidential sales-pitch almost entirely to a sluggish economy — they will be at the mercy of (otherwise favorable) future events.  She writes,

“The temptation is going to be to hit Mr. Obama on gas prices, accuse him of not doing enough exploration. But if gas prices fall, that argument loses its punch….

“The trick, which is what Mr. Gingrich is doing, is to instead cast energy policy as emblematic of the administration’s entire broken philosophy, the ‘fantasy world’ where ‘everything that is good is done by the government.’ This is the philosophy behind ObamaCare, behind entitlements, and all else.

“…A presidential mindset that believes government exists to remake the energy sector with high-cost green failures results in the exact opposite of the Gingrich proposition: fewer jobs, a higher deficit, calls for greater taxes, and declining manufacturing.”

Strassel simultaneously expresses skepticism about Gingrich’s ability to carry this message through November and gratefulness for his having so skillfully exposed its potential:

“This is a contrast that has been gift-wrapped for the GOP, even if Mr. Gingrich isn't necessarily the best messenger….[H]e’s outlining rich political arguments for his party. Whoever is the nominee could take some pointers.”

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