Industry, greens assessing expected Trump-Clinton smackdown

Source: Jennifer Yachnin, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, May 5, 2016

In the wake of Indiana’s presidential primary, voters and political professionals woke up to a new reality today: Former reality TV star and businessman Donald Trump is the GOP’s de facto presidential nominee — even if the Republican establishment isn’t quite ready to embrace him just yet.

Similarly, despite Hillary Clinton’s inability to shake off Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — who claimed an upset win in the Hoosier State last night and continues to stymie Clinton’s efforts to pivot to the general election — the former secretary of State is on her way to be the Democratic nominee.

The collision of those candidates could create one of the nastiest general elections in modern American history, and one where energy and environmental policy issues will be key dividing points between the candidates in the months until Election Day.

Indiana Republican voters handed Trump his seventh majority win in a row last night, with 53 percent against Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Cruz subsequently ended his bid for the Republican nomination last night, while Kasich vowed to remain in the race as his chief strategist John Weaver said: “Our strategy has been and continues to be one that involves winning the nomination at an open convention.”

But Kasich subsequently canceled a Washington, D.C.-area campaign event scheduled for this morning and announced he will hold a 5 p.m. news conference in Ohio, stoking speculation about whether he, too, will end his bid.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus acknowledged Trump’s likely status as the GOP’s presumptive nominee in a post to his social media accounts last night, urging Republican voters to be “united and focus on defeating” Clinton in the general election.

But other potentially key supporters from the energy industry or the GOP’s small environmental wing offered tepid support for the expected presidential nominee.

Robert Murray, the chairman of Murray Energy Corp., has not endorsed any presidential candidate to date — although he hosted a fundraiser for Cruz in March — but said today he hoped that if Trump wins the GOP nod that he will defeat Clinton.

“Mr. Murray is seeking for Mr. Trump to make the same very large and significant commitments to support the United States coal industry, which Sen. Cruz has made,” Murray spokesman Gary Broadbent told Greenwire. Murray has criticized Clinton over comments she made in March in which she vowed to put coal miners and companies “out of business” if she is elected.

Republican climate activist and entrepreneur Jay Faison, whose ClearPath Action super PAC supports GOP candidates who back a clean energy agenda, said he hopes the Trump campaign will incorporate clean energy into its platform but suggested the group would not otherwise wade into the presidential race.

“Mr. Trump’s presumptive nomination shows that voters are tired of the same old politics and want a fresh approach,” Faison said. “A conservative clean energy platform should be part of that fresh Republican platform. As Mr. Trump builds out his policy team and agenda, we look forward to sharing an alternative to Hillary’s unrealistic clean energy plan. Meanwhile, our focus will remain at the congressional level.”

Environmentalists including the Sierra Club immediately used Trump’s expected nomination to criticize the businessman, who has called climate change a “hoax,” voiced opposition to a carbon tax and said he would slash funding for U.S. EPA.

“In a profound blow to common sense, the future of the planet, and families across the country, Donald Trump’s victory solidifies the unfortunate fact that a person with a total disregard for the crisis posed by climate change will have a megaphone throughout the general election,” Sierra Club Political Director Khalid Pitts said in a statement.

Similarly, former French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, who helped broker the Paris climate agreement last year, today warned that Trump — whom he did not actually name — could derail the accord if elected.

“Think about the impact of the coming U.S. presidential elections. If a climate change denier was to be elected, it would threaten dramatically global action against climate disruption,” Fabius said in London, according to The Guardian newspaper. “We must not think that everything is settled.”

Congressional Dems see opportunity

Senate Democrats also seized on Trump’s inevitable place as the GOP standard-bearer this cycle, with candidates in competitive races linking the GOP nominee to Republican incumbents like Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman — even as the latter has backed Kasich in the presidential field.

“Six weeks ago, Republican Mark Kirk pledged that he ‘certainly would’ support Donald Trump if he was his party’s nominee. Tonight, he got his wish. Congratulations,” said Matt McGrath, deputy campaign manager to Rep. Tammy Duckworth, Kirk’s Democratic challenger.

The House Majority PAC, which backs Democratic House candidates, also highlighted Trump’s potential impact on down-ballot races.

“Donald Trump just became the ticket-mate of every single Republican congressional candidate,” House Majority PAC Executive Director Alixandria Lapp said. “In district after district, Republicans will be held responsible for a seemingly endless record of demagogic rhetoric and extreme policies from their presidential nominee. This election, House Republicans will need to answer for the divisiveness that has defined their party at every level of the ticket.”

Veep speculation intensifies

In the meantime, talk about Trump’s ascendance to presidential nominee stirred talk of his potential running mates today.

In an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump said he expected to pick a traditional running mate with experience in political office but did not offer specific names.

“I think I’ll probably go the political route, somebody that can help me with legislation and somebody that can help me get things passed and somebody that’s been friends with the senators and the congressmen and all,” Trump said.

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) is the only Senate lawmaker to endorse Trump’s bid to date. Other would-be running mates could include former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who endorsed Trump after ending his own White House bid earlier this year.

Reporters George Cahlink and Manuel Quiñones contributed.