Even as Speaker Nancy Pelosi twisted arms for the final votes to pass her climate bill in June 2009, Democrats feared they might be "BTU'd." Many of them recalled how Al Gore had forced the House to vote in 1993 for an energy tax, a vote Democrats later blamed for helping their 1994 defeat.
The politics isn't the same this time around. This time, it's much, much worse.
Ask Rick Boucher, the coal-country Democrat who for nearly 30 years has represented southwest Virginia's ninth district. The 64-year-old is among the most powerful House Democrats, an incumbent who hasn't been seriously challenged since the early 1980s. Mr. Boucher has nonetheless worked himself onto this year's list of vulnerable Democrats. He managed it with one vote: support for cap and trade.
Anger over the BTU tax was spread across the country in 1994; the tax hit everything, even nuclear and hydropower. And the anger was wrapped into general unhappiness with Clinton initiatives. Some Democrats who voted for BTU but otherwise distanced themselves from the White House were spared. Mr. Boucher, for instance.
Cap and trade is different. The bill is designed to crush certain industries, namely coal. As coal-state voters have realized this, the vote has become a jobs issue, and one that is explosive. It is no accident that Democrats face particularly tough terrain in such key electoral states as Ohio and Pennsylvania, as well as Kentucky, West Virginia and Indiana. They are being laser-targeted for their votes to kill home-state industries.
As the article goes on to point out, Mr. Boucher's position on cap and trade (including his authorship of the legislation) may prove to be his undoing:
Mr. Boucher sensed danger earlier this year and has run right: He voted against ObamaCare and has a newfound love for Bush tax cuts. But he's in a defensive crouch on the main issue, reduced to excuses for his cap-and-trade vote. A top one is the old chestnut that he got involved to make the bill better. He points to money he had inserted for "clean coal," and has somehow spun his work into an ad claiming he "took on his own party" to "protect coal jobs" in the, ahem, "energy" bill.
Yet as the race has tightened, the Boucher campaign has looked more desperate. It nitpicked the Americans for Job Security ad and demanded TV stations pull it. The union bosses for United Mine Workers of America had to step up, inviting Mr. Boucher to keynote a picnic to try to shore up coal workers. He's newly passionate about reining in an anti-coal EPA.
Mr. Boucher appears to still lead, but with a GOP wave building, no Democrat with an anti-job vote against his own constituents is safe. Virginia's ninth has already delivered one of the lessons of 2010: Cap-and-trade policy is terrible. Cap-and-trade politics is deadly.
Hat tip: Powerline