TIME energy

New Poll Shows Americans Won’t Give Up Their Cars

Stuck in Traffic
Cars stuck in traffic. Maureen Sullivan—Getty Images

Our car-crazy culture lags behind global competitors in using public transportation

Gas prices are high, roads are clogged and driving alone is worse for the planet. But Americans still prefer to commute in their air-conditioned cocoons.

A new global survey conducted for TIME on attitudes toward energy reveals that Americans are more reluctant than international counterparts to ditch their cars for public transportation.

Only 16% of Americans prefer using public transportation to get to work, compared with 41% of respondents overall in the poll, which compared U.S. attitudes toward energy and conservation with those in Brazil, Germany, India, South Korea and Turkey. Just 8% of U.S. respondents said they always take public transit instead of a personal vehicle, sharply below the overall total of 27%.

Americans’ reluctance to ditch their cars may be a symptom of their overall disinclination to take steps to reduce their carbon footprint. One in three U.S. respondents said they were willing to change their behavior in their name of conservation, 10 percentage points below the overall average and ahead of only South Korea.

Or it may stem from our long-running love affair with the automobile. A full 79% of respondents from the U.S. said they rely on their car for transportation, about double the overall average of 39%. (Germans were the second biggest gearheads, with 47% relying on cars to get around.) Just 9% of Americans said they lean most heavily on trains, metro systems or public buses.

The survey was conducted among 3,505 online respondents equally divided between the U.S., Brazil, Germany, Turkey, India and South Korea. Polling was conducted from May 10 to May 22. The overall margin of error overall in the survey is 1.8%.

TIME energy

Poll: Men and Women Think Differently About Energy

Energy Power Lines
Getty Images

A new global survey for TIME shows how attitudes toward conservation may be guided by gender

More women than men worldwide say energy conservation is a “very important” issue, while men report greater personal concern about global warming, according to the results of a new global energy survey conducted for TIME.

The survey polled online respondents in six countries—the U.S., Germany, India, Turkey, Brazil and South Korea—on their attitudes toward energy. It revealed that conservation habits and perspectives about energy challenges differ along gender lines, and not always in the ways you might expect.

Nearly 70% of women said energy conservation was a vital issue, compared with less than 50% of men. At the same, 65% of males reported that global warming was a very important issue to them, far outpacing the 37% of females who said the same.

The survey suggests that women are more leery of nuclear power (by a 48% to 40% margin), slightly more convinced the earth is warming (60% to 56%) and more likely to report high degrees of concern over rising sea levels, pollution and gas prices. By a couple of percentage points, women also took a more favorable stand on the oil-and-gas industry’s role in the issue.

Men, on the other hand, were more likely to say that rich nations should take the lead in the fight to reduce emissions (50% to 46%), and more likely to lay blame for the global warming crisis at the feet of the United States (45% to 38%), which has long held the ignominious title of the world’s largest carbon emitter.

The sexes were also split in their assessment of their home country’s role in the climate crisis. Sixty-three percent of women say their nation is part of the problem, compared with 54% of men. Men were more likely to say their country was part of the solution, by a 46% to 37% margin.

The survey was conducted among 3,505 online respondents equally divided between the U.S., Brazil, Germany, Turkey, India and South Korea. Polling was conducted from May 10 to May 22. The overall margin of error overall in the survey is 1.8%.

TIME Drugs

House Votes to Help Pot Businesses Use Banks

Rethinking Pot Border Town
Customers gather at a medical-marijuana store on July 9, 2014. Zachary Kaufman—AP

But the measure may stall in the Senate

The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed one measure designed to help legitimate marijuana businesses gain access to the financial system, and rejected another that would have blocked them from doing so. But the votes may not force a resolution to the cannabis industry’s long-running fight to bank its cash.

The House easily approved an amendment to an appropriations bill that would bar regulators from punishing banks who transact with legal marijuana businesses. The measure, which passed 231-192, is designed to ease the fears of financial institutions, who mostly eschew pot clients, even in states that have relaxed marijuana laws, because the drug remains illegal under federal law.

In the other vote, the House rejected an amendment sponsored by a conservative Republican that would have blocked the implementation of Treasury Department guidelines, issued earlier this year, that gave a yellow light for banks to accept legitimate cannabis clients.

Industry activists hailed the votes as a major triumph. “This is a huge step forward for the legal cannabis industry,” Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said in a statement. “Access to basic banking services is one of the most critical challenges facing legal cannabis businesses and the state agencies tasked with regulating them.”

Pro-pot votes in the Republican-controlled House are another marker of just how mainstream marijuana is becoming. But they are not necessarily a sign that the banking issue will be resolved anytime soon.

A bill to open the banking industry to pot clients would still have to clear the U.S. Senate, which is no easy feat for far less controversial legislation. There is no guarantee the measure will come up for a vote in the midst of a contentious election season, with control of the chamber up for grabs. And some legislators from both parties oppose opening the financial system to marijuana money. After the Treasury guidelines were issued, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) co-authored a blistering letter arguing that the department had “severely undermined” its mission.

“Following the guidance may expose financial institutions to civil or criminal liability,” Feinstein and Grassley wrote. “Congress and the President may reconsider marijuana’s legality, but until federal law is changed, selling marijuana, laundering marijuana proceeds, and aiding and abetting those activities all remain illegal. Far from clarifying the obligations of financial institutions, FinCEN’s guidance appears to create uncertainty where none had existed beforehand.”

Multiple Democratic Senate aides did not immediately respond to questions about the measure’s chances of passage in the upper chamber. Without Congressional approval, banks are unlikely to take the risk of changing their policy.

TIME 2014 Election

Meet The Tea Party’s Next Target

Lamar Alexander, Rand Paul
U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., left, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., confer after a press conference in Nashville, Tenn., on June 30, 2014. Erik Schelzig—AP

Conservatives have their sights set on Lamar Alexander, but he'll be tough to beat

For an unknown candidate, political campaigns are not glamorous. “I’m sick, tired, hungry and broke,” jokes Joe Carr, a Republican Senate candidate in Tennessee. For a year, Carr has been traveling up to 2,000 miles a week, crisscrossing the state to pitch sleepy crowds, slogging along in a quixotic bid to unseat a powerful incumbent. The polls weren’t budging. The money wasn’t coming in.

But Carr was convinced his primary challenge to Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander was primed to catch fire. The spark may have finally come last month, when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was bounced in a GOP primary by an unknown challenger named Dave Brat. The black swan upset buoyed Carr’s campaign, opening a fresh spigot of cash and prompting comparisons to the Virginia economics professor who was written off by everyone until he toppled Cantor. A poll highlighted in conservative media on Monday showed Alexander’s lead shrinking to just seven points after series of other surveys showed Alexander with a comfortable lead.

Now Carr, a little-known state representative and businessman, says he has a real shot on Aug. 7 to oust Alexander, the courtly senior U.S. senator and a Tennessee institution for the past four decades. “I think it’s very much a 50-50 proposition,” Carr told TIME in a phone interview Tuesday as he traveled to a campaign event in Cleveland, Tenn. As for the comparisons to Brat, he adds, “there are common threads.”

Indeed there are, beginning with the obstacles. Both were unknown challengers summarily ignored by not only the national media but also national Tea Party groups. Both were massive underdogs against well-known figures with huge campaign war chests.

Like Brat, Carr gathered steam slowly. He won the endorsements of some local Tea Party groups, then gained favor with conservative talk-show hosts. Both hammered the incumbent for supporting “amnesty,” an issue with special resonance as the migrant crisis on the southern border escalates. Both caught the attention of Laura Ingraham, the conservative pundit who campaigned for Brat and endorsed Carr on July 14.

Now the dominoes are falling into place for a legitimate challenge, Carr’s allies say. Ingraham will visit Nashville to rally support for Carr next week. “I’m all in for Joe Carr,” she said on her radio show. “He’s no-nonsense, a citizen legislator.” The Tea Party Patriots Citizen Fund gave an endorsement. A local Super PAC chipped in with a six-figure TV ad buy. Carr has a growing ground network, and the yawning gap in the polls is beginning to shrink. “Things are happening at exactly the right time,” said a Carr campaign consultant.

So can Carr spring the upset?

It still looks like a long shot. Alexander has a lead in the polls, a massive cash advantage and a savvy campaign that is courting conservatives by accentuating his role in opposing the Affordable Care Act.

A former governor and president of the state’s flagship university, he has succumbed to none of the usual traps of incumbency. While he never mentions Carr’s name, Alexander has campaigned like a man at risk, unlike former his colleague Richard Lugar, who lost a 2012 primary in Indiana. He is a ubiquitous presence in Tennessee, thwarting the gripes about absentee representation that soured the base on Cantor. Another Tea Party candidate may also cut into Carr’s support. Throw in the fact that Tennessee’s primary is an open contest that permits crossover voting, and Alexander (whose campaign did not respond to an interview request) just doesn’t look much like a vulnerable candidate.

“He’s covering all his bases,” said John Geer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville who conducted polling on the race. “He shows no serious weaknesses.”

Then there is the matter of the challenger himself. While Brat’s smooth rhetoric helped him spring an upset, Carr’s candidacy has some rough edges. According to the Memphis Flyer, Carr voiced some support for former Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s disastrous comments about rape and pregnancy. Before deciding to challenge Alexander, Carr bailed on a race against Rep. Scott DesJarlais, the embattled Tennessee Republican who opposes abortion except when when it comes to his mistress. And when Carr announced his candidacy last summer, the banner ad on his website urged voters to support “Carr for U.S. Sentate” [sic].

Which is why Alexander may be less Eric Cantor than Lindsey Graham, another southern Senator whose bouts of bipartisanship make him a target for disaffected conservatives. Graham helped author the Gang of Eight immigration overhaul that Alexander is now catching flak for supporting. And while the Tea Party painted a bulls-eye on his back, Graham went out and pasted his six primary opponents by 40 points.

That’s how it normally goes for Senate incumbents, who won re-election last cycle at a 91% clip. Beating Alexander will be hard. But Carr is convinced he can do it. “We’ve got a great chance to win,” he said. “Don’t be surprised if Joe Carr is the Republican nominee on Aug. 8.”

TIME 2014 Election

The U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Is Saving the GOP Establishment at Ballot Box

Tom Donohue
U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington on July 9, 2014. Evan Vucci—AP

Business group has been major force in 2014 races

On the day after New Jersey and Virginia’s gubernatorial elections last fall, Mitch McConnell showed up at a board meeting of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with another race on his mind. He announced that the day’s most consequential contest had been neither Chris Christie’s victory nor Ken Cuccinelli’s defeat. Instead, the Senate minority leader explained, it had been a GOP primary in South Alabama.

The Chamber had shelled out about $200,000 in the sleepy district on the Mississippi border to rescue a mainstream candidate who was struggling to fend off a Tea Party firebrand. The race had emerged as a test of whether the GOP could thwart a conservative insurgency that threatened to swallow it. Backed by the Chamber’s money and muscle, the establishment candidate eked out a victory. If it wasn’t for you, McConnell told the audience, according to two people present, it wouldn’t have happened.

The visit was both a token of institutional gratitude and a sign of things to come. Since last fall, the Chamber has cemented itself as the GOP Establishment’s heaviest hitter in the fight to reclaim the party from Tea Party zealotry. It has forked over about $15 million to boost business-friendly candidates in 2014 elections, more than any other Republican group. And it has amassed an undefeated record in nearly a dozen races so far, including key victories over candidates backed by the national outfits that powered the shutdown.

The Chamber’s formula has been simple. It has spent heavily in key races, worked with local partners who know the issues, and tapped celebrity endorsements to lift chosen candidates. “We’re looking for ways to break through,” says Scott Reed, the Chamber’s chief political strategist.

The business lobby’s involvement in GOP primary campaigns is something new, a shift sparked by frustration with conservative groups who supported the nomination of lackluster candidates and a succession of reckless fights. “For us, it was a different approach to take a big risk early in Alabama,” says Rob Engstrom, the Chamber’s national political director. “That could have had a disastrous effect.” From there, the Chamber has triumphed around the country, from a House race in Idaho against a candidate backed by the powerful Club for Growth to a Senate primary in Georgia whose field included two Tea Party favorites that could have tipped the general election to a Democrat.

Money has been a major ingredient. The Chamber poured $2.5 million into the Georgia primary, helping to usher its candidate, GOP Rep. Jack Kingston, into the runoff later this month. It spent some $500,000 on a single ad in the Idaho House GOP primary pitting Rep. Mike Simpson, a top ally of House Speaker John Boehner, against a Club-backed candidate. In all, the Chamber could spend up to $60 million in the 2014 cycle.

When needed, the group has brought in national figures to close the deal. In Simpson’s race in Idaho, that meant enlisting Mitt Romney, whose favorability rating in the district approaches 90%. In Florida, it meant a testimonial from popular former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Perhaps the best example of this approach came in last month in Mississippi. Strategists with the Chamber scrambled to find an edge after incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran was narrowly defeated in the Republican primary, barely squeaking into a runoff three weeks later against a conservative insurgent with momentum. Cochran’s ouster would have been vindication for national Tea Party groups and a boon to their fundraising efforts. As the Establishment fretted that the race was lost, the Chamber called a Hail Mary for a Magnolia State superstar.

On June 19, former University of Southern Mississippi quarterback and NFL MVP Brett Favre endorsed Cochran in a direct-to-camera television ad. “I’ve learned through football that strong leadership makes the difference between winning and losing,” Favre, sporting a salt-and-pepper beard, explained in the 30-second commercial. “Mississippi can win big with Thad Cochran.”

The ad went viral online, and in the final week of the race the Chamber spent $100,000 per day to air it across the state. The air cover helped Cochran eke out a win five days later by a little over 7,000 votes. As it happens, the original plan called for even more local firepower. The Chamber had hoped to team Favre with New York Giants QB Eli Manning, a former Ole Miss star, before Republican strategist Ari Fleischer, who advises NFL teams and players, nixed the idea. (Manning “is not political,” Fleischer wrote in an email to TIME. “It had nothing to do with the NFL.”)

Despite the electoral success, the Chamber has continued to struggle in the GOP-controlled house, where conservatives have been frustrating the group’s agenda on immigration reform and reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. Some Democrats have seized on these setbacks, encouraging the Chamber to switch sides. Though officially nonpartisan, the number of Democrats endorsed by the Chamber has plunged from about three dozen in 2008 to just three only six years later.

“From the Export-Import bank to tax extenders to immigration reform, Democrats and business are on the same side on a range of issues,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in a statement to TIME. “The Tea Party has dragged the Republican Party so far to the right that business is now closer to mainstream Democrats than Republicans.”

Not as the Chamber sees it, however. “We might have a common view with them on Ex-Im,” says Engstrom, “but the Democratic Party has fundamentally walked away from us on the issues.”

TIME White House

Obama’s New Drug Policy Looks a Lot Like the Old One

Michael Botticelli
Michael Botticelli, left, acting director of National Drug Control Policy, speaks to community leaders in Roanoke, Va., on July 9, 2014 Erica Yoon—AP

A new emphasis on treatment and addiction, but no change on marijuana

The Obama Administration unveiled an updated drug policy Thursday, including a new emphasis on treatment and addiction programs and a push to curb abuse of heroin and prescription painkillers.

Michael Botticelli, the acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, framed the retooled strategy as a shift away from the punitive policies that have produced record incarceration rates.

“Our prisons and jails are already overcrowded with people who desperately need compassionate, evidence-based treatment for the disease of addiction—not a jail cell,” Botticelli said in a statement before an event in Roanoke, Va.

Among the elements of the plan are expanded access to drug education, treating drug addition as a health issue rather than a criminal one, and a push to divert nonviolent drug offenders into treatment rather than prisons. It promotes tackling the twin scourges of heroin and prescription opiates, whose abuse rates have climbed.

The Administration’s call for criminal-justice reform reflects widespread agreement, inside the White House and out, that the war on drugs has been a misbegotten failure. The Department of Justice has emphasized the need to overhaul its approach from being “tough on crime” to being “smart on crime.” The updated policy is a continuation of that strategy. “The plan we released today calls for reforming our criminal justice system to find alternatives to incarceration—and effective interventions across the entire system to get people the treatment they need.”

But for the most part, the Administration’s approach looks like more of the same. It outlines no changes to the White House’s approach to marijuana, a blow to legalization advocates in the same week that Washington state became the second to legalize the sale of cannibis to adults for recreational purposes.

Despite the President’s belief that pot is less harmful than alcohol, federal law still classifies it as a Schedule I drug on par with cocaine and ecstasy. Discrepancies between state and federal pot laws have blocked legitimate weed-business owners from accessing banks and left the threat of jail time looming over users, sellers and growers even in states where some form of the drug is now legal.

The new strategy calls the increasing perception that cannabis is relatively harmless—fed not only by state legalization efforts, but also perhaps the President’s own remarks to that effect—a “serious challenge” to drug reform efforts.

“The drug czar’s office is still tone deaf when it comes to marijuana policy,” said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Why stay the course when the current policy has utterly failed to accomplish its goals?”

TIME 2014 Election

Chris McDaniel Wants a Do-Over in Mississippi

McDaniel delivers a concession speech in Hattiesburg
Tea Party candidate Chris McDaniel delivers a concession speech in Hattiesburg, Miss., on June 24, 2014. Jonathan Bachman—Reuters

Alleges rampant voter fraud tipped the election to incumbent Thad Cochran

The Republican Senate primary race in Mississippi ended last month — but the drama is only beginning.

The state Republican Party on Monday officially certified incumbent Senator Thad Cochran’s narrow victory over Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel in the June 24 runoff vote. But McDaniel is still refusing to concede, alleging that rampant voter fraud tipped the race to the incumbent and threatening to launch a rare legal challenge with the goal of a political do-over: rerunning the race.

“The allegations of criminal misconduct against the Cochran campaign and his close associates continue to mount,” McDaniel, a conservative state senator, said in a statement July 8. “Mississippians deserve a full accounting of the unbecoming tactics the Cochran campaign used in their attempt to drive ineligible voters to the polls in June.”

At the heart of the controversy is the McDaniel campaign’s claim that Cochran’s team enlisted ineligible Democrats to boost the vulnerable incumbent, whose narrow loss in the original June 3 primary prompted the runoff. According to the state party, the certified election results indicate Cochran squeaked through by a margin of 7,667 votes out of a total 382,197 ballots cast.

The Cochran campaign was frank about its strategy of courting Democrats to pad Cochran’s support. And there’s evidence the strategy worked. According to a New York Times analysis, Cochran’s vote totals leaped from the primary to the runoff in Democratic counties that overwhelmingly supported President Barack Obama. And Cochran racked up big margins in places like Hinds County, one of the state’s most liberal precincts.

The question is how many of those votes were valid. Mississippi law doesn’t prohibit voters from crossing the aisle to support a candidate in a different party. But it forbids doing so for voters who already cast ballots in their own party’s primary. That means Democrats who voted in their June 3 primary couldn’t legally cast ballots in the Republican runoff.

Cataloging crossover votes is the responsibility of individual counties, according to Pamela Weaver, a spokeswoman with the Mississippi secretary of state’s office. So it may be some time before the matter is settled. “We’re meticulously documenting all of the evidence of illegal crossover votes, of which there is an abundance — many, many thousands,” said Noel Fritsch, McDaniel’s spokesman.

In the meantime, the challenger is using the pent-up fury of the conservative movement to replenish his coffers. A fundraising solicitation splashed across the front of his campaign website claims: “Democrats steal the Mississippi runoff.” But McDaniel’s campaign has yet to offer hard evidence to support those allegations. It says it has been blocked from reviewing poll logs by uncooperative circuit clerks.

To Cochran’s team, the explosive claims are a textbook case of a sore loser looking to use the stakes of the election to retire campaign debt. McDaniel loaned his campaign $100,100 before the primary. It’s unclear whether the money raised for a possible legal challenge will go toward the debt.

But the fight doesn’t look likely to abate anytime soon.

TIME 2016 Election

Rick Perry Getting Ready for a 2016 Presidential Campaign

Texas Governor Rick Perry Speaks At The Commonwealth Club
Rick Perry, governor of Texas, speaks at the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco on June 11, 2014. David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The Texas Governor has not yet committed to run, but he is boasting about getting his ducks in a row.

Two-and-a-half years after his first campaign for the White House flopped, Texas Governor Rick Perry sounds ready for another run at the presidency. “I’m glad I ran in 2012, as frustrating, as painful and as humbling as that experience was,” Perry told a group of national reporters at a Thursday lunch hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

“Preparation is the single most important lesson that I learned out of that process,” he said. “Over the last 18 months, I’ve focused on being substantially better prepared. Please don’t take that as an indication that I’ve made a decision that I’m going to run or not—but if I do make that decision, I will be prepared.”

As his third term in the statehouse winds to a close, the swaggering Republican has refreshed his message, retooled his workout routine and retrained his sights toward the national stage. Perry is crisscrossing the country these days, dropping in on ice cream shops in Iowa, hot-dog fundraisers in South Carolina and donor confabs in California.

The overriding message? Perry is a national player, and he is not going to disappear when he steps down from his last term as governor. When he barreled into the race in the summer of 2011, Perry was touted as a major player in a moribund primary field. Handsome and folksy, with conservative credentials, a deep donor network and a record of poaching jobs from other states, Perry immediately vaulted to the top of pundits’ pecking order.

But the reality didn’t match the hype. Perry never connected with GOP voters. He ran a slipshod operation marred by unforced errors, including an indelible mental blank at a nationally televised debate. If he runs again, Perry would be betting that voters’ willingness to grant second chances will outweigh a sour first impression.

“I’m a competitor,” he told reporters Thursday. “I’m not going to ride off into the sunset.”

He has learned from the mishaps of the last campaign. Perry’s new message mixes conservative tribalism, such as skepticism toward climate change and a dose of Obama bashing, with a record of economic achievement designed to appeal to a national audience. Texas, he likes to say, has created 37% of the new private-sector private sector jobs in the U.S. over the past few years.

He has also changed his tune on immigration, a controversial issue that helped sink his last bid for the presidency. Audiences fixated on “oops,” but Perry’s advocacy of in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants (and his claim that those opposing the measure lacked a heart) had already sent his poll numbers plummeting among the GOP’s activist base.

This time around, he is speaking the Tea Party’s language on immigration. He resists immigration reform until the federal government secures the border, slammed the Immigration and Naturalization Agency and has directed the Texas Department of Public Safety to execute a “surge operation” to shore up the state’s southern border.

As the libertarian wing of the party grows, Perry has embraced efforts to be “smarter” about crime, embracing decriminalization of marijuana in Texas and touting the state’s success in adopting drug and prostitution courts that give judges sentencing flexibility with non-violent first-time offenders.

Perry is still stronger before conservative groups than he is with a national audience. “It’s time for a little rebellion on the battlefield of ideas,” he declared in a rousing March speech that sent activists at the Conservative Political Action Conference to the feet. In other settings, he has a tendency to goof: such as when he likened homosexuality to alcoholism at a recent speech in San Francisco. “I stepped right in it,” he told reporters Thursday, suggesting that social issues were a distraction from his core message of economic growth.

If he runs again, Perry would recalibrate his strategy. His late entrance into the 2012 primary put him at a structural disadvantage, which was exacerbated by a slow recovery from back surgery. “I figured surely I can heal up in six weeks and go back in the game. Not necessarily the case,” Perry joked, alluding to the condition that sapped his strength. This time, he has ditched his running routine and his cowboy boots in an effort to prepare physically.

He is also taking steps to broaden his donor base. Americans for Economic Freedom, a 501(c)4 formed with $200,00 left over from the super PAC backing his first presidential bid, has allowed Perry to grow his influence outside Texas. An aide says the group, which does not report its finances, has the backing of a wide swath of the Republican donor class. It is bankrolling his trips to meet with donors and give speeches, as well as to run television ads designed to highlight the Lone Star State’s economic boom. And it is funding his visits to Democratic states to poach businesses with promises of lower taxes.

The group has also run web ads highlighting early-state governors’ commitment to those economic principles, including Iowa’s Terry Branstad and South Carolina’s Nikki Haley. “This is his core message,” said a Perry strategist who declined to be named discussing future plans.

“The governor has been very clear that he’s keeping the options open,” the strategist continued. “The main focus is the 2014 election. If we do a good job there, it’s going to be easier in 2016.”

“We both have some tread left on our tires,” Perry’s wife, Anita, told attendees at the Texas Republican Convention. Her husband’s speech there this month had all the markings of an announcement speech. “This America we love faces some hard decisions. And it requires better leaders,” Perry said. “Let’s get to work.”

TIME 2014 Election

A Vulnerable Democrat Pushes The Keystone XL Pipeline

Mary Landrieu pushes a politically helpful bill through her committee in an election year

Seniority in Washington isn’t what it used to be, but it still has certain perquisites. Mary Landrieu chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, a perch that offered the vulnerable Louisiana Democrat an opportunity Wednesday to mix policy and politics.

With President Barack Obama delaying a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reluctant to schedule a floor vote on a bill that would subvert Obama’s authority, Landrieu pushed through a committee vote on the controversial pipeline. It passed, 12-10, with Landrieu joining Republicans to vote in favor of the project.

The move could be a political boon for Landrieu, a moderate Democrat locked in a difficult fight to win reelection in the conservative Bayou State. One recent poll found that 67% of Louisiana voters favored construction of the pipeline, with just 12% opposing the project. Nearly four in five respondents cited Keystone as an important issue in the race.

Landrieu is running slightly behind Republican nominee Bill Cassidy in a RealClearPolitics average of recent polls. That may be one reason why she was keen on accentuating her support for the project, which would carry tar sands from Alberta through the American heartland to the Gulf of Mexico. Supporters say the pipeline would bolster U.S. energy independence and decrease reliance on foreign oil, while opponents warn it will pollute communities and exacerbate climate change.

Landrieu’s support for the project is not merely political. As a three-term incumbent from an energy state, she is a longtime supporter of the oil and gas industries, the second largest contributors to her campaign war chest over the past five years. “Many of us have been supporting the construction of this pipeline for many, many years,” she said during hearing Wednesday. “This is a serious issue.”

Republicans agree. But they dismissed the vote a political charade, noting that the opposition of Reid and senior Democratic leaders means the issue is unlikely to receive a vote before the full Senate. “We all know this isn’t going anywhere, because Harry Reid won’t let us vote on this,” said Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, a Republican who supports the pipeline’s construction. The criticism dripped with irony: Republicans, of course, scheduled a slew of show votes to repeal a health care reform bill that wasn’t going anywhere.

Landrieu heralded the passage of the bill through committee and promised she’d press Reid to allow a vote before the full Senate. Iraq’s descent into sectarian warfare was a reminder, she said, of the importance of forging energy alliances with North American neighbors Canada and Mexico. That didn’t stop Republicans from accusing her of playing politics. “This vote seems more like a cheerleading exercise,” said Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, “than a meaningful effort to get Keystone built.”

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