Despite rock-bottom public opinion, Republicans still championing BP

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll delivers the latest edition of “Today’s Awful News” for British Petroleum. BP’s favorability rating now stands at 6 percent, lower than recent ratings for Phillip Morris (15 percent) and O.J. Simpson (11 percent).

But this unsurprising bottom-of-barrel level support hasn’t seemed to influence many Republican politicians, who in races across the country are either sticking to their support for more offshore drilling or still guarding BP’s sensitivities, if not both.

Polling this month in Florida found a 48-point swing in the amount of enthusiasm Floridians have for more drilling compared to public opinion measured one day before the Deepwater Horizon accident on April 20. Still, Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio has maintained a constant line of support for offshore drilling. “In the long term, offshore drilling has to be part of our overall energy strategy,” Rubio recently said on CNBC. “Other countries are going to do it, and if they have an accident, that’s going to impact [the U.S.] just the same.”

The Florida Independent highlights a report that contradicts Rubio’s claims that more offshore drilling in the U.S. will have an impact on America’s foreign oil reliance.

Rep. Joe Barton’s now-(in)famous apology to BP, then retraction, then un-retraction, has certainly brought increased scrutiny on the party’s sympathy for BP. The crowd that still supports BP and decries the escrow account set up to pay claims to spill victims as some sort of government “shakedown” have taken criticism from friendly parties.

But that hasn’t stopped their cheerleading for BP’s rights as a private company versus the livelihood of the Gulf Coast: Barton is cashing in on his apology to BP in the way Rep. Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” earned him millions from backers; The Colorado Independent reports that Cory Gardner, candidate for Colorado’s contentious 4th Congressional District seat, will attend (and benefit from) a fundraising event Thursday in Washington held by a BP lobbyist; and, as we noted noted here earlier this week, Rep. Michele Bachmann called the escrow fund “extortion” and a “redistribution-of-wealth fund.” For those comments, Bachmann has seen her opponent, Democrat Tarryl Clark, cut an ad and raise a substantial amount of money in a short period of time.

Bachmann’s claims were also featured in a Democratic National Committee ad that aims to highlight “how Republicans would govern” if they made enough gains in Congress this November. The DNC is on the same page as White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who appeared on ABC’s “This Week” last Sunday to foreshadow Democratic strategy this election year surrounding Republicans’ BP support.

“They see the aggrieved party here as BP, not the fishermen. Remember, this is not just one person. Rand Paul running for Senate in Kentucky. What did he say? He said, the way BP was being treated was un-American. Other members of the Republican leadership have come to the defense of BP and attacked the administration for forcing them to set up an escrow account and fund it to the level of $20 billion. These aren’t political gaffes,” Emanuel continued.

“I think what Joe Barton did is remind the American people, in case they forgot, this is how Republicans would govern,” he said.

Democrats seem to recognize an opening here to point to the GOP as the party of corporate America. Yet some Republicans are recognizing the perilous gamble of supporting BP on the campaign trail. As The Colorado Independent has reported, Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis, who is being pulled rightward by Tea Party favorite Dan Maes in the race, recently voiced concern over the unbridled support for more drilling in his party.

“Drill, baby, drill, we don’t need that,” he said Wednesday at an energy policy forum in Denver, where he also placed blame on BP for the spill and its aftermath. Whether his party follows suit and its candidates distance themselves from BP as the summer rolls into fall remains to be seen.

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John Amick

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