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It’s not hard to figure out why Obama is holding off on Keystone


Let me finish tonight with the president’s decision to hold off on making a decision on the Keystone Pipeline.

If you look at the map showing the route that the pipeline takes, it should look familiar. It tracks the vast swath of red territory that in every election in recent memory goes solidly Republican. That’s a grand total of between 21 and 24 electoral votes depending on the route; 62 if you count Texas.

As a setup for the Democratic ticket in 2016, Keystone looks like more of a bust than a boom.

Sure, there are Democrats elected in those states–some in the United States Senate–and there are unions who’d like to see the jobs that Keystone promises to bring. But even as a matter of 2014 strategy, and with his party facing a midterm election that could decide whether the last two years of his presidency are spent passing immigration reform and infrastructure and securing a long term legacy for himself and his party that could have generational demographic consequences or spending all his time vetoing abortion legislation and Ryan budgets, President Obama’s decision seems to be a pretty straightforward calculation.

Contrast the fewer than 50 permanent jobs the pipeline would create (far less than the 42,000 temporary jobs estimated by the State Department for a pipeline that would carry Canadian shale oil through the U.S., but not directly to American customers since it would be shipped around the world) and it’s pretty clear that the White House is right to make the calculation that that particular heaven can wait.

There simply aren’t enough electoral votes in that vast swath of red states to make the ultimate difference for Democrats long-term, or to offset the anger that would ripple through the liberal base of the Democratic Party in the short run.

Democrats need every one of those voters to turn out in November in unusually high numbers, and Keystone isn’t a fight worth picking with voters who care about the environment.

At the same time, by not killing the pipeline outright, he leaves just that much hope for red state Democrats–not to mention something to fight the White House on.

The political calculation isn’t hard to figure out. It isn’t even close.

Hardball with Chris Matthews, 4/21/14, 8:08 PM ET

Reid: New Keystone decision is unsurprising

Hardball guest host Joy Reid examines the political calculation behind the Obama administration’s decision to delay a decision on the construction of the Keystone Pipeline, and how it would affect Democrats in 2014 and 2016.


It's not hard to figure out why Obama is holding off on Keystone