3E Intelligence

Three American political commentators do not see global warming as one of the defining issues for the upcoming presidential campaign. The next president will probably be chosen on the basis of personality and domestic issues unless there is a new terrorist attack before November 2008.

The three journalists, Rick Burke (NY Times), Carroll Doherty (Pew Research Center) and Jonathan Weisman (Washington Post) were invited to Brussels for a debate organised by the US German Marshall Fund.

None of the three dared to make any predictions as to the outcome of the Presidential race which will start with preliminaries in Iowa in January 2008. The Democrats have the better chances but this is more a result of the frustration with Bush than because of the Democrats’ own merits, according to the US journalists. The names most mentioned during the briefing as potential runners were Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama for the Democrats and Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney for the Republicans, but watch out for Mike Huckabee (Republican), dixit Burke. A double ticket Clinton-Obama would be too much breaking the taboos, agreed all three.

Jonathan Weisman felt that, contrary to the last two campaigns, foreign policy would play less of a role. Health care, energy costs, immigration and tax policies are the issues that matter to the American people this time.

Asked by different speakers from the audience about climate change, the three experts did not see Europe’s hot topic playing a major role in the campaign, although they admitted that all Democrat candidates are trying to present their special climate change plans. Energy security (and oil independence) could be more of an issue, said Weisman, especially if gasoline prices would go to 4 dollars a gallon.

Let me add my two-cents worth: it is clear that even the press experts are quite uncertain about the outcome of the next Presidential elections. They all see that the country is ready for a big change but in what direction and with whom seems to be wide open. I also think they underestimate the energy security issue and, linked to that, the growing anti-globalisation mood in the US. If the US were to go into a recession, energy prices would rise spectacularly and unemployment would start to grow considerably, we might be in for some strange surprises, even an influential independent candidate (Bloomberg?) who might not be the ultimate winner but could surely change the cards in a considerable way. I generally agree with the GMF speakers though that Europeans overestimate the impact climate change will have on the campaign.

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