First on CNN: Climate groups join for first-of-its-kind, $100 million push to mobilize midterm voters

In a difficult political year for Democrats, the climate groups are forming the new Climate Votes Project, shared first with CNN and to be announced Monday. The $100 million will pay for multiple ad campaigns, as well as an in-person field organizing to contact hard-to-reach voters in battleground states including Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Georgia and others, according to officials leading the coalition.

The groups include Climate Power Action PAC, Climate Reality Action Fund, EDF Action Votes, League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund, NRDC Action Votes, and NextGen PAC.

“We know turnout is going to be lighter in an off-year election,” David Kieve, president of the Environmental Defense Action Fund, and a former top staffer at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, told CNN. “Our job is to motivate people who will be motivated by climate.”

While some climate groups spent millions on their own in the 2018 midterms, Monday’s announcement will mark the first time these climate groups are coming together to spend $100 million in a midterm election.

In 2018, for example, the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund and its affiliates spent more than $80 million on an effort to turn out voters. And in 2022, individual climate groups will spend on top of the $100 million from the coordinated group.

The messaging to voters will include both economic arguments about inflation and switching to cheaper renewable energy, as well as the impacts of extreme heat, wildfires and extreme weather worsened by rising global temperatures.

“The amount of drought in the west — scary doesn’t begin to explain how bad it is,” said Heather Hargreaves, executive director of Climate Power Action PAC. “With hurricane season and wildfire season, that will be a big part of our message.”

The field program will roll out this summer in several states, the groups said.

“We want to have conversations with voters, not to show up on the eve of the election,” Pete Maysmith, senior vice president for campaign at the League of Conservation Voters, told CNN.

Congressional action on climate is still a question mark

Some Democrats have worried that a lack of action around climate and other priorities in Congress could hurt voter enthusiasm in the midterms. Midterms are historically bad for the party in power, and Biden’s approval numbers have been dismal for months.

Talks on a Democrat-only package to combat inflation, lower prescription drug costs, and pass clean energy tax credits are continuing between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and key holdout, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. There’s no guarantee of a deal, or that the final product will include climate and clean energy provisions. There’s also a chance Democrats won’t be able to pass a major spending bill until their lame-duck session in the late fall, after the midterms have happened.

Advocates told CNN that while they’ll push to mobilize voters no matter what, their work will be made easier if Democrats pass a bill that addresses climate before the midterms.

“That task gets a lot easier if we have a really transformative climate bill,” Kieve said. “There is no question those voters are going to be more motivated if we get a significant climate package over the finish line between now and then.”

A lack of Democratic action on a climate bill could especially be a drag on mobilizing young voters, an important constituency on the climate issue. Young voters aren’t a sure bet for Democrats; going into this midterms, a recent poll by the Harvard Institute of Politics found just 41% of young Americans approve of President Joe Biden’s job performance.

Of the participating groups, NextGen PAC is specifically dedicated to turning out young voters and has long prioritized climate change.

“A lot of young people do have eco-anxiety about the future,” Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez, president of NextGen, told CNN. “What we see is that young people understand that and that’s why they want to take the issue head on.”

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