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« Battling Over Battle Creek | Blog Home Page | MI 07: Schauer Down 3 »

Energy, The GOP's Last Hope

GOP strategists believe energy issues favor them enough to help Senate candidates across the country, National Republican Senatorial Committee chair John Ensign said today. With the party setting expectations as low as a five to ten seat loss, Republicans are attempting to take hold of the one issue they've found recently that could move votes their way come November.

"Energy is the issue of the day in the country," Ensign told a morning conference call today, pointing to Republicans' so-called "all of the above" approach. "We are for alternative, clean, green conservation, but we're also for drilling...and most Republicans are for exploring up in Alaska as well."

Colorado, Louisiana and New Hampshire were three states where Ensign noted Republicans were closing in the polls, something he attributed to voters believing the GOP could best solve rising gas prices. Colorado has an open Republican seat; New Hampshire has one of the most vulnerable incumbent Republicans hoping to retain his seat; and Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu is perhaps her party's only vulnerable incumbent this year. Democrats, for now, are favored in all three.

In Colorado, a Quinnipiac poll released last week showed former Rep. Bob Schaffer pulling even with Democratic Rep. Mark Udall after trailing him in most polls this year, though other surveys show Udall still has a lead.

Recent polls in Louisiana have shown Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy within just a few points of Landrieu, whom Ensign has previously mentioned as the GOP's top target.

And last week, a University of New Hampshire poll showed Senator John Sununu pulling within his closest margin of Democratic former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen this year, after surveys have shown him trailing by double digits.

"We are having a dramatic drawdown on our economy, and because of that it is critical that we solve the energy problem," Ensign said. "Republicans are on the right side of this issue and Democrats are on the wrong side," when it comes to opening up domestic energy supplies.

Also on the call, Ensign said he didn't see Republican Senate candidates skipping their party's national convention in St. Paul as an indication that they are in trouble. "The convention is a fun thing to do," Ensign said. "But when you're in a hot race, you should be back in your state campaigning. It has nothing to do with distancing themselves from the party."

Ensign made the comments the same day the Raleigh News & Observer reported that North Carolina Senator Elizabeth Dole would take a pass on John McCain's coronation celebration to stay home and campaign for a second term. Dole, Maine Senator Susan Collins and Alaska Senator Ted Stevens have all said they will miss the convention, as has Colorado's Schaffer.

-- Kyle Trygstad