Palin's being vice presidential nominee may actually help the GOP

Sen. John McCain's selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a running mate could give Republicans a way to more effectively make energy the primary 2008 presidential campaign issue.

Sen. John McCain's selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a running mate could give Republicans a way to more effectively make energy the primary 2008 presidential campaign issue. They have seized it as an offensive in Congress already and probably would relish extending it to the race for the White House.

Many commentators, in their initial reactions, overlooked Palin's tenure on Alaska's oil and gas commission before she beat her predecessor, Frank H. Murkowski, in a 2006 Republican primary en route to a general election victory a few months later.

Palin also currently chairs the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the National Governors Association's Natural Resources Committee. That makes her prominent in two major multi-state organizations' energy development and conservation discussions in 2008.

"Gov. Palin has demonstrated first-class leadership on issues critical not only to Alaska, but also to the nation's energy security," IOGCC Executive Director Carl Michael Smith said upon learning of McCain's choosing her as his running mate.

'Topics of importance'

"Throughout her chairmanship of the IOGCC, she has shown her commitment to ensuring we maximize domestic oil and natural gas resources balanced with environmental protection in order to ensure a sound energy future, topics of great importance in the coming election," Smith said.

Palin ran for governor on a platform which included renegotiating a contract to build a gas pipeline from Alaska to the Lower 48 states. Soon after taking office, she persuaded the legislature to approve a bill which began a competitive process for the project. She also created a state petroleum systems integrity office to oversee equipment, facilities and infrastructure maintenance, and a climate change sub-cabinet to prepare a strategy for Alaska.

"She's run a huge economy up there in Alaska. Twenty percent of our energy comes from the state, and energy is obviously one of the key issues for our nation's security," McCain said in an Aug. 31 interview on "Fox News Sunday".

ANWR may re-emerge

The governor's presence on the ticket also could bring leasing of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's coastal plain back into the race. Congressional Republicans already have put Democratic leaders on the defensive with their calls to open more of the Outer Continental Shelf to evaluation, exploration and development. Compromise proposals which include some additional OCS access (but nothing on ANWR so far) await both the House and Senate when they return.

GOP demands for an OCS vote clearly put pressure on Democratic leaders before the August recess. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) kept voting open 30 minutes longer to get enough votes. In the House, where August recess motions normally are routine, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) got one passed by a single vote. Several Republicans stayed behind or returned over the next four weeks to speak in the darkened chamber.

If Republicans successfully make energy the key 2008 presidential campaign issue, they'll be playing squarely in Sarah Palin's court where her returns of Democrats' shots could be surprisingly effective.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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