Will Obama’s Drilling Concession Win Over Republicans?

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Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

As reported last night, President Obama announced this morning a proposal to open up vast tracts of ocean to offshore oil drilling. "The bottom line is this," Obama said. "Given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth, produce jobs, and keep our businesses competitive, we're going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable, homegrown energy." Obama's other motive, though, the Times suspects, is to "help win political support for comprehensive energy and climate legislation." And though this is a significant concession to Republicans, many liberals are wondering if Obama will actually get any votes in return from the GOP, for whom blanket opposition to the president's agenda is still a priority.

• Matthew Yglesias doesn't understand why Obama should be making concessions when it won't get him any votes for an "overall energy package" in return. "This isn’t the greatest environmental crime in human history, but it sure does seem like poor legislative strategy." [Think Progress]

• Kevin Drum concurs: "When it comes to energy, conservatives are crazy about two things: nuclear power and offshore drilling. Now Obama has agreed to both. But does he seriously think this will 'help win political support for comprehensive energy and climate legislation'? Wouldn't he be better off holding this stuff in reserve and negotiating it away in return for actual support, not just hoped-for support?" [Mother Jones]

• Steve Benen isn't the least bit shocked, but wonders what Obama is getting in return, now that he "has already effectively given Republicans what they wanted on energy." [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• Marc Ambinder sees the move as "high reward, low risk" that isn't explicitly about votes. "By announcing this BEFORE the Senate moves forward with its climate change legislation, which may or may not include cap-and-trade (probably not), the White House is betting that they'll force Republicans into a corner before the public debate begins, they'll give some cover to moderate Democratic members of Congress (who love it when Obama picks a fight with his own base), and they'll get some public cred with Americans who want to see the president moving quickly to find opportunities to create jobs." [Atlantic]

• Bradford Plumer thinks it "seems odd to fork over this bargaining chip before the bill is even released." But he also suspects the move may be "geared toward public opinion. According to the EIA, gas prices are expected to go up quite a bit this summer (probably shooting north of $3/gallon), and the administration may just want to get out ahead of the inevitable teeth-gnashing and garment-rending over the issue." [Vine/New Republic]

• Chuck Todd and friends thinks this "will be yet another test for Obama’s Democratic base — in this case, environmentalists." [First Read/MSNBC]

• Jonathan Hiskes calls the decision "stunning" and "baffling." "With the new policy Obama appears to be taking a major step toward siding with carbon-polluting industries in the battle to defend the energy status quo." [Grist]

• Alex Koppelman says "Republicans should love it" but also predicts that "there will no doubt be complaints about those areas kept closed, and in an election year where the GOP has effectively decided to oppose just about everything the president proposes, there's going toi [sic] be some reluctance to embrace this." [War Room/Salon]

• House Minority Leader John Boehner, right on cue, complains that Obama's proposals don't open as much ocean for exploration as they should. [Hill]

• And Republican congressman Mike Pence of Indiana calls the proposal a "smokescreen" which "will almost certainly delay any new offshore exploration until at least 2012 and include only a fraction of the offshore resources that the previous Administration included in its plan." [Water Cooler/Washington Times]

• Jim Geraghty points out that this is yet another "expired campaign promise." [Campaign Spot/National Review]

• Jake Tapper chronicles Obama's gradual shift on offshore drilling. Though he was opposed to it earlier in the presidential campaign, by August of 2008, Obama "signaled that he was willing to support legislation that included off-shore drilling as part of a bipartisan compromise." [Political Punch/ABC News]