The 2014 elections have been a dispiriting affair, replete with Democratic skittishness about the major legislative achievement known as Obamacare and wretched GOP demagoguery about Ebola and the border. But despite all this, and even if Dems lose the Senate, there may be one bright spot: Liberals may have made a bit of headway in forcing climate change on to the national agenda.

In the Senate race that may have focused more than any other on climate change — in Michigan — the Democrat appears on track for a sizable win. And today’s New York Times has a great piece detailing the surprising degree to which the environment and climate have emerged as issues in multiple Senate campaigns.

To be sure, in some races, particularly in coal states, Democrats are under assault over Obama’s climate agenda, and they are running from it. But as the Times details, in some cases, Democrats feel more comfortable than ever in going on offense against GOP climate skepticism. And, crucially, this is part of a longer game designed to make climate an issue in the 2016 presidential race. Billionaire Tom Steyer’s group is spending enormous sums on climate ads, specifically in key presidential swing states like Colorado, Florida, Iowa, and Michigan, and other groups are also running similar ads in those states attacking Republicans candidates for questioning climate science and linking that to other issues. As one environmentalist put it, the long term goal is to make it “part of the narrative” that climate skepticism is “outside the mainstream.”

The mere act of injecting climate into the political dialogue — even if it doesn’t have much of an impact this year — is itself a step forward. And the issue could matter in the coming presidential race. For one thing, climate change is a priority for the constituencies that are increasingly important to the new coalition that fueled Obama’s popular vote win in the last two presidential elections — and among which Republicans will need to broaden their appeal. A recent Pew poll found that huge majorities of young voters, nonwhites, and college educated whites believe there is solid evidence of global warming. Meanwhile, only 25 percent of Tea Party Republicans believe this.

And so, the GOP presidential candidates may find themselves under pressure to pander to climate skepticism in the coming primary. At the same time, climate may get even more attention next year: In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency’s new regulations requiring states to limit carbon emissions will begin to get implemented, and an international climate change agreement designed to get nations to reduce emissions will be negotiated in Paris. Republican presidential primary contestants will probably be expected to rail in fury at these developments, which could help Democrats portray them as “outside the mainstream” in the eyes of the growing constituencies that are giving them an edge in national elections.


* TILLIS-MENTUM!!! OR MAYBE NOT: The Beltway chatter suggests national Republicans now think Thom Tillis has momentum and that the North Carolina race is tied. But a new WRAL poll finds Hagan leading by 46-43. That’s within the margin of error, but that spread is also consistent with the average putting Hagan up 4.3 points, suggesting a small but durable lead remains.

Noteworthy: 51 percent disapprove of the job Tillis has done as state House speaker, another sign the state’s hard right turn is on the ballot here.

* TILLIS FLIPS ON MEDICAID EXPANSION: Related to the above: Tillis is now suggesting that North Carolina should consider opting in to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Which is funny, because during the GOP primary, he ran an ad boasting that as state House speaker, he had “stopped Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion cold.”

By the way, the above WRAL poll finds that Hagan holds an edge among those who name health care as their top priority. Maybe the politics of Obamacare are a bit more complex than the simplistic disaster-for-Dems narrative has it?

* NUNN EDGES AHEAD IN GEORGIA? A new Survey USA poll finds Dem Michelle Nunn slightly ahead of GOP businessman David Perdue by 46-44. The average still has Perdue up by nearly four, but this is the third recent poll to show Nunn up, and Perdue’s quotes about outsourcing may still be doing damage.

But even if Nunn can win, the question is whether she can get to 50 percent. If not, we may see a runoff in which control of the Senate is on the line — in a red state.

* DAVID PERDUE HAS SWISS BANK FUND: The Huffington Post scoops:

Republican David Perdue, the Georgia businessman running for U.S. Senate, has as much as $1 million invested in an exclusive fund managed by a Swiss private bank — a rarefied investment strategy that has earned him between $100,000 and $1 million since 2012.

If the Dem strategy is to Romnify Perdue, this one obviously won’t hurt.

* SCOTT BROWN’S IDEA OF BORDER SECURITY: In the Senate debate last night, Jeanne Shaheen and Scott Brown attacked each other over a range of issues, with Brown robotically repeating Obummer-Obummer-Obummer talking points while Shaheen denounced him for treating New Hampshire like a “consolation prize.” Here’s Brown offering his definition of a secure border:

“You know when it’s secure when people don’t come across it,” Brown said, prompting audience laughter and applause.

Maybe we will know the border is secure when people with Ebola are no longer casually strolling across across it.

* FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL RACE DEADLOCKED: A new Quinnipiac poll finds GOP governor Rick Scott and Dem challenger Charlie Crist all tied up at 42-42 among likely voters. The polling average also has it deadlocked.

In the Q-poll, Crist holds a small edge among those who have already voted, 41-38, which is interesting, given that Republicans hold a sizable edge in early ballots cast, meaning early voting independents might be breaking Democratic.

* AND THE QUOTE OF THE DAY, MINIMUM-WAGE-DERANGEMENT EDITION: Also last night, Rick Scott and Charlie Crist clashed bitterly in a debate, and after Crist called for a minimum wage hike, this happened:

Scott said he did believe there should be some sort of minimum wage in place, but when asked how much it should be, he responded: “How would I know? I mean the private sector decides wages.”

Well, at least we now know where both men stand on the issue.