It’s time for the president to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and make a campaign problem for Democrats go away.
While not approving the Keystone pipeline may please some of the more progressive parts of the Democratic Party and environmental groups, it certainly is not going to help Democrats — including the president himself — win close races decided by independent voters.
Florida is the perfect example of where the Keystone pipeline decision could swing an election. If the president wins Florida and most of the traditionally blue states in November, he will beat Mitt Romney. He won’t need to win a single other swing state (like Virginia, New Mexico or Nevada) to capture the election. But in a closely watched Senate race in Florida, Rep. Connie Mack, the Republican challenging the incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, is running ads attacking Senator Nelson for cozying up to Obama and not doing more to get the Keystone pipeline approved.
Trust me, before Congressman Mack invested valuable campaign dollars on that attack advertisement, that message was tested on independents in Florida, and those voters support the pipeline. If the Keystone pipeline resonates with independent voters now in the Sunshine State, there is no reason to think it won’t in October and November.
Something else to consider is that Mitt Romney is going to focus on a single issue during the campaign: the economy — and specifically, the lack of job creation under President Obama. This is why the Keystone pipeline decision (or lack thereof) is the perfect issue for Republicans to campaign on and hammer Democrats and President Obama with. Here is exactly how Republicans will attack him for it:
First, it shows the president is not serious about lowering unemployment, because we know the pipeline will help create thousands of jobs for Americans all across the nation.
Second, gasoline prices continue to be through the roof and rejecting Keystone demonstrates the president isn’t doing everything he can to bring them down.
Third, it makes the president seem like an extremist more interested in listening to environmental groups than helping to put Americans back to work.
Republicans will also highlight the fact that the labor unions — traditional Democratic stalwarts — are also in favor of the Keystone pipeline because they know it will create thousands of jobs.
Look, if the economy was humming along and going strong, Mr. Obama could perhaps afford to hold off on a final decision for the Keystone pipeline until after Election Day. But the economy is struggling and the American people are worried about their jobs and their families.
The fact is, the nation is not adding new jobs as fast as it was just a few months ago. The unstable housing market and the debt crisis in Europe — over which no one in this country has any control — are serious threats which could potentially slow economic growth in the United States.
If the progressives and environmentalists are smart, they will give the president a green light to approve the Keystone pipeline because if he does not, it could help Mitt Romney win the election. I have to believe that if Mitt Romney wins the White House, he will not only approve the Keystone pipeline on his first day in office, but he will also seek to undo all of the environmental protections that have been put in place during the Obama presidency. That wouldn’t just be bad for the forests, swamps, oceans and the air we breathe — but a disaster for all Americans. Democrats need four more years in the White House, and it would be a shame to jeopardize that over the Keystone pipeline.
Ronnie Shows is a former Democratic member of Congress and member of the Blue Dog Coalition. He represented Mississippi’s Fourth Congressional District between 1999 and 2003.