These days, it takes careful parsing to pinpoint what Republican candidates believe about climate change.
The GOP's Senate candidate in Michigan, Terri Lynn Land, issued a press release last month that declared global warming was "absolutely" a reality. Such an acknowledgment, on its face, would once have amounted practically to heresy for a party hostile to the science of climate change. But lest anyone begin to confuse her with Bill Nye the Science Guy, her campaign's spokeswoman quickly emailed a follow-up statement: Although Land thinks the Earth's climate is changing partly as a consequence of human behavior, she's dubious about the degree to which humankind is responsible.
To a climate scientist, that's a bit like watching a golfer line up a perfect putt, only to see the ball unexpectedly lip out of the hole at the last moment. But as the dust settles on President Obama's proposal to cut carbon emissions, her almost-but-not-quite embrace of climate-change science is indicative of a broader shift within the Republican Party — one that has shucked the defiant skepticism of its recent past for a nuanced view on the subject.
Certainly, base-wary Republicans haven't gone all-in yet. Their adjustment, however, is no accident: While the science itself is largely the same, the politics of its legitimacy has turned against Republicans in all but the reddest of states. It's a separate debate from the economic-focused one about the potential loss of jobs from the regulations — one Republicans are convinced they'll win — but it's nonetheless an issue rearing its head in the midterm elections.