The national media met Gov. Jay Inslee’s Friday announcement of presidential aspirations with one big question: Will climate change be enough?
Inslee spoke with several national outlets prior to the official announcement in Seattle, based on profiles of his candidacy quickly published in the hours after a YouTube video confirmed what most Washington residents expected all along. Rolling Stone,The New Yorker and The Atlantic posted interviews with the candidate focusing at least in part on whether the 68-year-old Democrat without a large national profile can parlay a single issue into a successful long-shot bid for the White House.
The statistical analysis firm FiveThirtyEight noted that Inslee has a fairly liberal record in a field that includes many candidates who appear to be racing to the left politically. But climate change could be the issue where Inslee distinguishes himself, according to their analysis, especially among the relatively larger share of Democratic primary voters concerned about climate change, compared to GOP voters.
“Given the level of concern among Democrats, perhaps a campaign that homes in on climate change can help Inslee make inroads on the left during the primaries,” wrote Christie Aschwanden and Geoffrey Skelley in their piece for FiveThirtyEight published Friday. “It’s a topic receiving a lot of attention at the moment because of the proposed ‘Green New Deal’ being pushed by some progressive Democratic House members.”
Inslee’s push for action on climate change may also help him make up the fundraising and polling deficits he’s experiencing compared to other big names in the Democratic field, including Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker. The political action committee Act on Climate Now was formed late last month to support Inslee’s candidacy, backed by veteran Democratic operatives who worked with Inslee in his role as head of the Democratic Governors Association supporting party colleagues in the 2018 midterms.
“It’s early in the race, but Inslee starts significantly behind, jumping in as a mostly unknown weeks after other candidates made it official and months after many began seriously sketching out plans to win,” wrote Edward-Isaac Dovere in The Atlantic. “He’ll also be behind in fundraising, though he will be the first announced 2020 Democratic candidate with an affiliated super PAC supporting him, despite the energy in the party against the big-money groups that has kept most other candidates from using them.”
Super PACs are not subjected to the same kind of fundraising constraints as other groups under federal law, but also aren’t allowed to give money directly to political campaigns. Inslee has signed a pledge that he will not accept campaign donations from individuals or entities representing fossil fuel industries.
National Republicans, like some of their counterparts in the Washington state Legislature, quickly seized upon Inslee’s legislative record as the state’s chief executive and a former state and federal lawmaker to argue that his views don’t represent the majority of Americans.
“Jay Inslee’s chances of becoming president are exactly what he’s polling at: zero,” said Michael Ahrens, communications director for the Republican National Committee, in a statement Friday morning. “His campaign will only force Democrats into embracing more extreme policies, like a carbon tax, which would kill jobs, raise energy prices, and disproportionately hurt working-class Americans.”
Opponents and pundits alike noted that Inslee’s poll numbers are barely registering this early in the race. The Morning Consult poll conducted at the end of last month, referenced in the RNC statement, showed Inslee with zero percent support among registered voters who plan to vote in the Democratic 2020 primary.
But Inslee’s entrance into the race, and his emphasis on climate change, could push all the other candidates to start talking about the issue, reported national newsmagazine Politico.
“If he qualifies for the first Democratic primary debates – likely, given the Democratic National Committee’s relatively low threshold for appearing on stage – Inslee will press the issue,” wrote David Siders and Daniel Strauss for Politico.
Inslee has kept open the option of running for a third term as governor if his White House bid is unsuccessful.
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