LCV Victory Fund Memo: What we’re watching at the first Republican Presidential Debate | LCV Victory Fund

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LCV Victory Fund Memo: What we’re watching at the first Republican Presidential Debate

August 23, 2023
David Willett,

TO: Interested Parties
FR: Pete Maysmith, SVP, Campaigns, LCV Victory Fund
RE: What we’re watching at the first Republican Presidential Debate:

Ahead of the Republican Presidential Debate tonight, while the U.S. is still reeling from the tragic and deadly wildfires in Hawaii, a virtually unprecedented tropical storm on the West Coast, the hottest July on record,  flooding, and poor air quality from more wildfires, the difference between Joe Biden and the Republican field of challengers on climate change and the environment could not be more stark. President Biden and Vice President Harris have made climate change, environmental justice and protecting our democracy centerpieces of their work in the White House. Meanwhile, Donald Trump and the Republican candidates who will be debating in Milwaukee have collectively denied science, called climate change a “hoax,” intend to eliminate environmental safeguards putting the health and well-being of our communities at risk, and taken every opportunity to pledge their loyalty to Big Oil.

It’s a fact that people respond positively to hearing about the Biden-Harris administration’s affordable clean energy plan to fight climate change, create jobs, and lower energy costs. People are worried about extreme weather, flooding, wildfires, dirtier air, whether insurance will cover their home, being beholden to oil cartels who control prices, and whether there are good jobs in their community. The Republican presidential candidates dismiss all these real-world concerns and would rather try to make people afraid of conspiracy theories, windmills, solar panels and electric cars.

Against the backdrop of this summer’s tragic climate consequences, the Republican candidates have not displayed any connection to reality. Based on their recent campaigning, here is what we can likely expect to hear from virtually ALL the candidates at the debate:

Republicans will talk about needing to “unleash American energy.”

All of the debate-qualifying candidates have a stated policy of increasing production of oil and gas in the United States.

What they won’t mention: Don’t expect candidates to mean clean, renewable energy like wind and solar when they say this. They are focused specifically on the expansion of fossil fuels but they won’t mention that the United States is already the world’s leading producer of oil and gas and is actually a net exporter. Nor will they talk about the impacts of the pollution that harms communities–particularly low income and communities of color around the country.

Republicans will say clean energy helps China

Expect all the candidates to claim that President Biden’s popular clean energy programs help the government of China and hurt the U.S.

What they won’t mention: The affordable clean energy plan is investing in homegrown manufacturing and clean energy production through wind and solar here in the U.S. precisely because it is the best way to make the U.S. less dependent on other countries. In the first year of the Inflation Reduction Act, companies have announced over $110 billion in clean energy manufacturing investments, and 272 clean energy projects and over 170,000 jobs have been created.

Republicans will say high gas prices mean we have to drill for more oil

Expect the candidates to highlight rising gas prices (particularly pointing to last summer’s prices) as both an attack on the Biden administration’s policies and justification for more drilling, and they will claim that oil and gas production has halted under Biden.

What they won’t mention: Don’t expect the candidates to note that gas prices are determined by the world market and increased production would have a negligible impact on price, that again, the U.S. is already a leading oil and gas producer, or that Big Oil is continuing to gouge people at the pump – doubling their profit in 2022 by making over $200 billion. And don’t expect them to talk about the fact that recent increases in prices are in part due to extreme heat fueled by climate change!


The Candidates

While for the most part, all the Republican candidates for President are promoting only slight variations of Big Oil’s agenda to keep the country dependent on fossil fuels, they each of course have their own unique story. Here is just a very top-level look at what we might expect to see:


  • Doug Burgum: Governor Burgum has said “The Biden Administration’s energy policies are ‘100% backwards,’ and like the rest of the field pushes for a much stronger reliance on polluting fossil fuels. Look for Burgum to embrace the “all of the above” approach to energy, but reserve his biggest praise for the oil industry.


  • Chris Christie: As Governor Christie occasionally tried to talk the talk on climate, but when his administration pulled out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and never actually moved forward on offshore wind it was clear he wasn’t walking the walk. More recently Christie has called the Inflation Reduction Act a “mistake” despite its success, jobs created and broad support.  Christie is one of the candidates more likely to say he supports action on climate, but his record tells a different story.


  • Ron Desantis: Despite overseeing a state that faces huge climate threats, including more severe hurricanes, sea level rise, and dying coral reefs, Governor DeSantis has earned the reputation of not taking climate change seriously, while simultaneously having to take action to address climate resiliency. Like Trump, he has also pledged to undo President Biden’s popular clean energy policies. On the debate stage look for him to continue parroting Trump and Big Oil’s talking points while engaging in divisive hate and fear based rhetoric that has become the hallmark of his administration.


  • Nikki Haley: Under President Trump, Haley was responsible for pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, something her campaign says she would do again. Haley has acknowledged climate change is happening, but when it comes to policy, her platform of increasing use of fossil fuels and rolling back clean energy incentives will only exacerbate the crisis.


  • Mike Pence: Whether it was in the Indiana Governor’s mansion, Congress where he earned a 4% LCV score, or the White House, Mike Pence has stood in the way of environmental protections at every turn. More recently, Pence has put forth one of the stranger energy plans with Politico referring to it as a “head scratcher” because it failed to grasp that the U.S. is already a leading producer of oil and gas. Look for Pence to say that he is proud of everything the Trump-Pence administration did to weaken environmental protections and put more people at risk.


  • Vivek Ramaswamy: Ramaswamy denies the urgency of climate change and instead pushes an agenda of “Drill. Frack. Burn coal. Embrace nuclear.” Expect to hear him refer to climate activism as a “cult” despite the fact that the vast majority of voters believe that climate change is happening and support leaders who want to take action.


  • Tim Scott: With a lifetime LCV score of 6%, Senator Scott has always been hostile to environmental protection. Like many of the other candidates he has pledged to roll back the Biden administration’s popular clean energy plan programs, but he will be the only one on the stage who has already cosponsored legislation to do so. Look for Scott to try to force a false choice that President Biden should abandon climate action, and establishing national monuments and instead focus on the Southern Border.


  • Donald Trump:  Trump may not be debating, but as the Republican front-runner who has set the tone for the rest of the field, his presence will be invariably felt. After rolling back over 100 environmental safeguards and mocking climate change while making wild claims like windmills cause cancer as President, he has shown no signs of changing his positions despite losing in 2020 to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, who campaigned on the most aggressive climate platform of any major party nominee in history. Since getting back on the campaign trail in between arraignments, Trump has only continued to dismiss climate change and make up numbers that vastly underestimate the impact of sea level rise and engage in fearmongering to deflect from the benefits to auto workers, energy costs and the climate of investments in clean, electric vehicles.


Safeguarding our Democracy: Few Republican candidates have been willing to agree that Trump should be held accountable for his efforts to undermine or overturn the 2020 election. Regardless of how they may attempt to avoid the question, or try to frame it as a political attack, no one should be above the law. Trump does not get to be held to a different standard than the rest of us just because he’s rich, famous, or a former president. He must face the consequences of his actions. And he must never become president again

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Paid for by LCV Victory Fund,, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.