Now, on to the Twin Cities

Democrats weren’t the only ones flocking to Denver this week: Republicans, too, mobbed the Mile-High City in the hope of pouring cold water on Barack Obama’s parade. From a rented office a stone’s throw from the Pepsi Center, GOP activists used toy soldiers and Star Wars figures to map out their strategy for disrupting the Democratic love-in; meanwhile, in a studio next door, party bigwigs like Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani gave countless televised interviews in a bid to offset the attention being paid to the Democrats.

Still, besides a few hecklers chanting “Drill here, drill now!” - and getting heckled themselves in return - the GOP struggled to find any real response to the Democrats’ concerted attempts to make energy and the environment the party’s signature issue. That was first and foremost because the Dems managed to stay firmly on message, presenting a cohesive vision of energy reform as the key to solving America’s economic, environmental and foreign-policy woes.

Next week, of course, the parties will swap roles, with the Republicans getting their moment in the spotlight and the Democrats doing their best to throw a spanner in the works. The early signs are that the Democratic rabble-rousers could have an easier time of it in St Paul than their Republican counterparts had in Denver this week: to judge by the party platform cobbled together this week by GOP apparatchiks, when it comes to the environment deep fissures remain between John McCain and his conservative base.

Republican policy wonks called the platform “the greenest we’ve ever had”, which is probably true - if only because former platforms have failed even to acknowledge that climate change is an issue. Other than that, there’s little green about the GOP platform; its authors carefully Tippexed out virtually all references to global warming, failed to mention the carbon-caps McCain says he’d work to introduce, and argue that the GOP should only support climate solutions that don’t require anyone to change their lifestyle. “Republicans caution against the doomsday climate-change scenarios peddled by aficionados of centralized command-and-control government,” the platform warns darkly.

With an overwhelming majority of voters now convinced that alternative energy and better fuel efficiency, not more drilling or gas-tax holidays, are the keys to solving America’s energy crisis, the GOP’s insipid stance on energy policy and climate change could give Democrats the opening they need. In Denver, Democrats have shown that they can make strong arguments for their energy platform. Next week in the Twin Cities, it will be time to show that they can take the fight to the Republicans.