Shrinking voter support for U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., has propelled the nemesis of Arctic drilling into a statistical toss-up with Republican newcomer Mike McGavick, according to a poll announced June 21.
Independent pollster Rasmussen Reports said a survey of 500 likely Washington State voters June 13 showed the Democratic incumbent leading challenger McGavick in her re-election bid, 44 percent to 40 percent. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
Cantwell has emerged as a chief opponent of energy development, especially in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore in the Lower 48. She has collected splashy headlines with her crusades against tanker traffic in Puget Sound, oil drilling in ANWR, price-gouging by energy companies and other “green” issues popular with many voters. She has sparred with Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens on tankers and drilling, drawing the enmity of many Alaskans but buttressing her own political base.
Rasmussen’s monthly polls since January show a gradual erosion of Cantwell’s lead over McGavick, a millionaire insurance executive who served as campaign director and chief of staff for former Washington Sen. Slade Gorton. Cantwell defeated Gorton by about 2,200 ballots out of some 2 million votes cast six years ago. Rasmussen said Cantwell in January was favored by 51 percent of voters and McGavick by 36 percent.
Hovering 6 percentage points below 50 percent in a head-to-head matchup is a big danger sign for an incumbent, according to political pundits. Rasmussen attributed Cantwell’s eroding support largely to her past backing of the Iraq war and her vote against an attempt to block the nomination of Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Both positions have angered voters on Cantwell’s left. Political analysts say Washington State Democrats are split on the Iraq war, and some delegates actually booed Cantwell at the state Democratic Party convention in Yakima on June 3.
“Any time you see the incumbent booed, and party stalwarts having to intervene to turn those dissident voices off, that’s not good,” David Olson, a University of Washington political scientist, told reporters in June.
Still, it’s early in the campaign, and Cantwell has many pluses. She is better known than McGavick in a Democratic state with a penchant for electing women. The outlook is good for Democrats this election thanks to President Bush’s waning popularity and her campaign war chest overflows — $5.7 million cash on hand. She has raised $13 million in the past six years. Next to Hillary Clinton, she’s the most prolific Senate Democratic fundraiser. (McGavick has raised $2.7 million and has $900,000 on hand.)
Shtokman announcement expected in JulyStatoil believes Russia’s gas monopoly Gazprom will announce its choice of partners for the huge offshore Shtokman project during the G8 summit in St. Petersburg in July, rather than August as Gazprom previously announced. U.S. oil majors Chevron and ConocoPhillips, as well as Norway’s Statoil and several other foreign companies, are said to be the leading candidates to partner up with Gazprom. “We are led to believe that it will probably happen in connection with the G8 summit,” Peter Mellbye, head of Statoil’s international exploration and production division, told Reuters during a June 15 presentation to analysts in Stavanger, Norway. The summit is scheduled for July 15-17.
Gazprom initially was to announce its choice of partners for the Barents Sea Shtokman gas project in April. Gazprom intends to convert Shtokman natural gas into liquefied natural gas primarily for the U.S. market. However, relations between the United States and Russia have cooled over issues including membership in the World Trade Organization and competition for allies among former member states of the former Soviet Union. The U.S. has accused Russian leaders of playing power politics with the country’s vast gas and oil resources.
Meet the oil CEOSTop officials at Chevron, Shell and ConocoPhillips sat down with Tim Russert on Meet the Press June 18 to address the questions, “‘Why are gasoline prices so high, while oil company profits are soaring?’ and ‘Can we be self-sufficient in our energy needs?’”
Russert said polls show the American people have overwhelmingly negative feelings about oil companies.
Chevron CEO David O’Reilly said he could understand why most people feel negative toward the industry because rising gasoline prices have been a shock. But the huge profits earned recently by oil companies have created a misperception that the industry is outrageously and consistently profitable. In reality, the oil industry’s profits over the long term are in the mid-range when compared with other industries, he said.
Shell CEO John Hofmeister said the high profits mean more capital is being reinvested in finding more oil and that wouldn’t be possible without the high prices. While crude oil is selling well, Hofmeister said the industry’s retail gasoline and chemicals segments are actually struggling to turn a profit.
ConocoPhillips CEO Jim Mulva said the oil industry has done a poor job of educating the public about what it does and why.
Russert also asked why Brazil is becoming energy self-sufficient and the United States is not. He noted that Brazilians are selling both ethanol made from sugar cane and gasoline at the pump.
Mulva said Brazil’s secret is not a reliance on ethanol but rather its thriving oil industry where production has jumped nine-fold in recent years.
In the United States, relying on ethanol made from corn would drive up food prices, Hofmeister said. The oil companies are currently testing ethanol production from plant waste, but the real solution is to increase oil supplies by exploring for more oil, especially offshore in U.S. coastal waters, the CEOs added.
A complete transcript of the interview is available at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13296235/.