After just two early contests in the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, some environmental groups are already declaring a winner: the issue of climate change. "Four candidates, two states, one winner," was how the League of Conservation Voters put it after Tuesday's New Hampshire primary victories for Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain and Iowa caucus wins for Republican Mike Huckabee and Democrat Barack Obama.
By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - After just two early contests in the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, some environmental groups are already declaring a winner: the issue of climate change.
"Four candidates, two states, one winner," was how the League of Conservation Voters put it after Tuesday's New Hampshire primary victories for Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain and Iowa caucus wins for Republican Mike Huckabee and Democrat Barack Obama.
"The true frontrunner in the 2008 presidential campaign so far is the issue of global warming: all four winning candidates to date support capping greenhouse gas emissions and solving the global warming crisis," the non-partisan environmental group said online at www.lcv.org.!ADVERTISEMENT!
Sen. McCain of Arizona is the sponsor of one of the first bills to curb climate-warming pollution. Sen. Clinton of New York is a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which managed last month to approve a new carbon-capping bill -- the first time this has ever happened.
Sen. Obama of Illinois has said his first priority to combat global warming if he is elected would be to enact a carbon cap that would cut U.S. emissions by 80 percent.
Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, supports a cap-and-trade approach to fight global warming but has not been specific about how that might work in his administration.
An ordained Baptist minister, Huckabee has said that whatever the cause of climate change, humans are responsible for cleaning it up: "I believe that even our responsibility to God means that we have to be good stewards of this Earth."
Tony Kreindler of the group Environmental Defense, which favors mandatory caps on carbon emissions, hailed the New Hampshire primary results.
"It's remarkable that the standard-bearers for both parties support a mandatory cap on global warming pollution," Kreindler said of Clinton and McCain. "It shows that serious action on climate change is not just smart policy, it's smart politics."
Dan Lashof of the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund was not quite ready to declare victory, noting that all four winning candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire "have a position that is certainly far better than the Bush administration, because they've embraced the need to solve global warming and specifically embraced the need to cap and reduce emissions."
Lashof took aim at the media for failing to bring the environmental issue to prominence in questioning the candidates. The League of Conservation Voters has also raised this point, making a running tally of how often the U.S. Sunday morning political TV interviewers ask about climate change.
In 2007, of 2,484 questions asked of presidential candidates, only three mentioned global warming, the league said.
Primary-day weather in New Hampshire probably didn't hurt the climate change case: with temperatures around 60 degrees F (15.55C) on Tuesday, voters accustomed to slogging through snow and ice on the way to the polls kept talking about the surprising warmth. Campaign signs that normally get planted in snowbanks sagged in slush piles instead.
(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)