The other day, Marco Rubio stirred a lot of chatter about the current state of the GOP by suggesting he’s skeptical of science demonstrating the extent of human activity in creating climate change. He subsequently defended his climate skepticism by changing the subject to abortion:

“Let me give you a bit of settled science that they’ll never admit to. The science is settled, it’s not even a consensus, it is a unanimity, that human life begins at conception,” Rubio said. “So I hope the next time someone wags their finger about science, they’ll ask one of these leaders on the left: ‘Do you agree with the consensus of science that human life begins at conception?’”

Perhaps inadvertently, Rubio created a useful template here for classifying a number of today’s Republican candidates for Senate — and, more broadly, for gauging the party’s current approach to science.

It turns out multiple GOP Senate candidates are both climate skeptics or deniers and onetime supporters of Personhood measures, which have declared that full human rights begin at the moment of fertilization. Or, at a minimum, the GOP candidates listed below have all dabbled in those positions:

* Terri Lynn Land: The Michigan Senate candidate appears to support Personhood and oppose abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Land has received the endorsement of Michigan Right to Life. David Malone, the executive director of the Michigan Right to Life PAC, tells me that no legislative candidate gets this endorsement unless he or she is “pro-life with no exceptions other than the life of the mother,” and unless he or she agrees to a “Human Life Amendment to the U.S.  Constitution, effectively establishing personhood from the moment of  conception.”

This language is detailed in the PAC’s endorsement criteria, which also require the candidate filling out a questionnaire detailing these positions.

A spokesperson for Land did not reply to a request for clarification of her position; I’ll update if I hear back. When questioned by Politico, Land did not mention rape or incest as exceptions to her opposition to abortion.


 * Thom Tillis: The Republican Senate candidate in North Carolina said during the GOP primary that climate change is not a fact.

Meanwhile, according to McClatchy, Tillis during the primary also favored a Personhood constitutional amendment that would “grant legal protections to a fertilized human egg and possibly ban some forms of birth control.”

“On climate change, what Speaker Tillis said was that the Earth’s climate obviously changes over time,”  Tillis spokesman Jordan shaw told me, without specifying Tillis’ views of humans’ role in making that happen. “On personhood, my conversation with McClatchy was simply that if such an amendment made it to the Senate floor, then Speaker Tillis would support it.”


* Cory Gardner: The Republican Senate candidate in Colorado conceded back in 2010 that climate change is happening, but he added: “I don’t believe humans are causing that change to the extent that’s been in the news.”

Meanwhile, Gardner has a history of supporting Personhood measures, including as recently as 2013. While it’s true that Gardner renounced his previous support for Personhood after entering the contest, Dems seized on the reversal to argue that Gardner only supports protecting women’s health when politically necessary.


* Joni Ernst: The position on climate change held by the GOP Senate candidate from Iowa is a bit more complicated. When asked for her views on the topic in an interview with the Des Moines Register editorial board, she expressed support for unspecified “policies that protect our environment,” but added that they should be “voluntary.”

“Yes, we do see climates changes but I have not seen proven proof that it is entirely man-made,” Ernst said in the interview, adding that we’ve seen “cyclic changes in weather…throughout the course of history.” She suggested it’s uncertain “what impact is man-made.”

Meanwhile, Ernst supported a “Personhood” amendment to the state constitution as state senator, and did not respond to my recent request for clarification of her position on the issue.


Of course, it’s unclear how much all of this will matter in terms of who will control the Senate next year, given the terrible make-up of the map for Dems. But it’s worth noting that Dems are planning to ramp up attacks on the GOP candidates over Personhood as the campaigns intensify. Meanwhile, as Lucia Graves details, it’s not impossible climate change could matter a bit more than usual in multiple Senate races. The Koch brothers, who are spending massively to influence who controls the Senate, have a history of bankrolling climate skepticism, and with environmental activist Tom Steier set to spend huge sums on Dems, that could give the issue a somewhat higher profile.

Either way, the current GOP candidates’ stances on Personhood and climate change are a reminder that, for all the talk about the “GOP establishment” vanquishing extreme elements within the party, the nominees themselves have held positions that Dems will seize on to portray them as being just as extreme as Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock ever were.