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Drilling down for votes in Ohio
Gingrich tells Ohio pro-drilling is good politics and policy; new gas-oil backed foundation is pushing the point in Tampa
This story is part of a special series.

Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
Newt Gingrich tells the Ohio delegation fracking cures many ills and includes political points.
Courtesy of M.L. Schultze
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In The Region:

The economy is the campaign message Republicans are pounding on this week in Tampa. But it’s clear that Ohio Republicans think they can win with a message also focused on increasing oil and gas drilling, and they got some training this week on how to spread that message. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more from Tampa.

Schultze: GOP sees drilling as political capital in Ohio

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They’re calling the four days of training at the Republican convention this week Newt University, and topics include Medicare, taxes and energy. And Monday, Newt Gingrich brought one part of his training to the Ohio delegation.

“And I’m going to share with you what may be the most dynamic innovation out side of Apple.”

Fracking can "change the world"
He was talking about horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, the processes to release oil and gas from shale usually referred to by the shorthand “fracking.” It’s worth hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs in Ohio.

It’s also raised concern in some communities about ground water pollution, pipeline explosions and earthquakes triggered by disposal of the fluids used.

But none of those concerns found a voice in the room of some 200 people. And they are not part of Newt Gingrich’s vision of what the new drilling techniques will mean to America.

“They give us an opportunity to break loose. They give us an opportunity to suddenly change the world.”

Politics and policy
“That’s going to lead to a lower price of energy, which means we will be by the end of the decade the dominant manufacturing in the world again on a scale that will lead the Chinese to recede as a relative competitor because we will be capable of competing with anyone.”

Gingrich touted exponential growth in the estimates of the amount of oil and natural gas in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations under Ohio.

 But this is a presidential convention, and like so many issues, even such big picture things eventually come to political terms.

“We have just done a poll in Ohio that is very encouraging about energy as an issue we can win on and win big.”

That poll was done by Republican firm, Polling Group Inc. And Kellyann Conway presented the findings.

“Energy brings together all the issues that people do say are important to them in Ohio. Jobs, economic growth, lower cost of living just every day affordability including with lower gas prices, national security.  Made in the USA, we’ve got made in the USA energy right here, and we’d have made in USA jobs to go ahead and tap it through some of these new initiatives.”

Poll says politicians who back drilling gain points
She said the poll found that Ohioans, by a 70—24 percent margin are more likely to vote for politicians who support more drilling, and that Not In My Backyard no longer applies.

“We also found that to be mostly untrue if people believe that greater domestic development in Ohio and elsewhere would lead to local jobs and lower prices.”

And, she added, “If you give  people a choice of whether they want to hug a tree or hug their wallet, they’ll go with the wallet every time.”

Oil industry weighs in
Further pushing the poll, the point and the politics is a new group called the New American Energy Opportunity Foundation, whose president, Matthew Fleming, comes to the effort by way of the gas and oil industry in Texas. He took the stage from Gingrich and declared a new involvement by the industry in politics.

“Here’s one of the things that the oil and gas industry has done traditionally. We’ve sat around the table and talked to each other about how we wished things were different, and then went back to working and didn’t do anything about it. We decided that the stakes in this election are too great to continue to sit on the sidelines.”

Four years ago, GOP delegates in St. Paul carried signs and chanted Sarah Palin’s mantra – "Drill baby drill. With the formal convention not starting until this afternoon, it’s unclear if that will be the case nationally this year. But it’s a message the Ohio delegation is prepared to deliver.  


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