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After months of coy hints, Claire McCaskill finally came out of the closet about her opposition to clean energy legislation when she signed on to a letter seeking to stop EPA regulation of CO2 emissions from “stationary sources” (e.g. coal-burning utilities and factories). One naturally assumes that McCaskill is going for the short-term pander for political reasons – she is certainly not as dim as her various statements on this topic make her sound. However, a new study indicates that McCaskill’s stance could well backfire.

The Benson Strategy Group conducted a poll of 16 battleground states, including Missouri, asking the followinng question:

This past summer, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an energy bill that limits pollution and greenhouse gas emissions through what’s been called a Cap and Trade plan and also invests in clean, renewable energy sources in America. Soon, the Senate will debate it.

58% of the respondents favored the provisions of the House legislation, the  American Clean Energy and Security Bill (ACES), while only 37% disapproved. Even more telling in regard to McCaskill and her re-election strategy, 56% said that they would be more likely to vote for their Senator’s re-electon if he/she voted for the bill, while 50% said that they would be likely not to vote for them again if they voted against it. Only 37% said that they would vote against their Senator if he/she voted for the clean-energy bill.

The poll also indicated that this level of approval could withstand strong attacks of the cap-and-tax, job-killer, catastrophic energy costs,  etc. variety as long as they were met with equally strong messages about the merits of the legislation. For example, respondents were presented with a paragraph that was harshly critical of the economic implications of the legislation, but they remained steadfast in their support when that criticism was balanced by this paragraph:

Other people say opponents of this bill – oil companies and corporate lobbyists – have fought energy reform for decades to protect their profits. They’ve made America more dependent on oil from hostile nations – hurting our economy, helping our enemies, and putting our national security at risk. We spend a billion dollars a day on foreign oil and this bill will cut that figure in half – creating secure, clean energy sources made right here in America instead of sending that money overseas to countries that support and finance terrorists groups.

And, just to put the cherry on the sunday, the poll also found that:

The public’s desire to regulate carbon polluters is so strong that, by large margins, voters believe the EPA should act if Congress doesn’t.

Does anybody besides me think that maybe all that Tea Party Sturm und Drang last summer impressed our junior Senator overmuch? If so, she could be in for just as rude an awakening as Blanche Lincoln over in Arkansas.