Rand Paul’s Risky Bet On Climate Change

Rand Paul is making a climate-change calculation that could cost him.

The Kentucky senator and would-be 2016 contender has bucked the GOP establishment on an array of issues ranging from national security to drug policy. And in recent months, Paul has started to build a record suggesting that he supports action to cut air pollution and believes that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to climate change.

That stance sets Paul apart from many Republican 2016 hopefuls who have publicly cast doubt on mankind's impact on climate change and duck the question of whether the U.S. should curb emissions.

It's also a strategic move. Calling for climate action could help Paul win credibility with young voters and Independents and ward off criticism from the left that Republicans stick their heads in the sand when it comes time to talk about a warming planet.

But affirming that human activity bears some responsibility for climate change and calling for pollution cuts could erode support for the senator in coal-rich Kentucky, where his Senate term ends in 2016. It also leaves Paul vulnerable to attack from a crowded GOP presidential field.

And Paul's comments on environmental regulation are exactly the kind of sound-bite that rival Republicans could use to attack the Kentucky senator during the primary.

"This is a packed field so we're going to see people using anything they can to discredit each other. I could see Cruz, Rubio and others playing Whac-a-Mole with this," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist and former campaign advisor to John McCain. "There's very little upside to sticking your neck out so soon on this."

Read more from Clare Foran at the National Journal

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