Marc Marano, a former staffer to Sen. James Inhofe (Washington's climate change skeptic-in-chief) and editor of Climate Depot, a popular climate change skeptic blog, kicked off the 2012 talk at a panel called "Public Policy Realities" at the Heartland Conference Thursday.
He slammed Newt Gingrich for the climate change ads he cut for Al Gore back in the day. He ripped Romney for saying climate change is real and humans are partially responsible for it. And of course he took on Jon Huntsman for his talk of scientific consensus on climate change. He didn't have anything but nice things to say about Rep. Michele Bachmann.
Then he got to Christie, perhaps the second most popular non-running Republican choice for president behind Perry.
"People always say 'Chris Christie! Chris Christie!'" Murano said. "On energy policy all he talks about is banning coal and putting offshore windmills in New Jersey. He couldn't be more clueless when it comes to climate and energy. Another very dangerous man when it comes to this issue."
Murano's main concern with Christie is his support for consensus climate science. Christie pulled New Jersey out of regional carbon reduction pact, but Murano said he still sides with scientists who says climate change is real.
After his talk, he told TPM that he's a Perry man. But he said he didn't think any Republican will beat President Obama anyhow (though Perry has the best shot.)
Many of those attending the conference are legislators and other local electeds -- the perfect batch to poll on the politics of of climate change and how it might affect the 2012 elections. They liked Perry and Bachmann too -- but they weren't as quick to condemn Christie, the current patron saint of straight-talking Republican lawmakers.
"That was to sell his book," Iowa state Sen. James Seymour (R) told TPM when asked about Murano's Christie talk. "I think Christie's an excellent choice."
Seymour hasn't decided who he'll back in the caucuses next year, but he said "we've got a pretty good slate." Like any good undecided Iowan lawmaker would this time of year, he ducked any questions on who specifically he liked.
The same can't be said for Arkansas state Rep. Nate Bell (R). The first-term lawmaker is one of 20 members of the legislature who recently sent Perry a letter calling on him to jump into the presidential race. He also took issue with Christie when it comes to the environment.
"Christie's record on this issue is not good," Bell said. "I'm a big Christie fan on most other issues, but on this issue his track record has not been good."
Seated next to Bell was Arkansas Rep. Linda Collins-Smith, a self-described conservative Democrat who didn't vote for Obama in 2008 and won't be voting for him next year. She said she's undecided in the presidential field. She had a lot of nice things to say about Bachmann, and was also concerned about Christie's climate stance. But she didn't seem to bullish on any of the options currently on the table.
"I'm glad she's running," Collins-Smith said, but said she wasn't sure about Bachmann's ability to raise enough money to play. She expects the field to expand and says she's confident a "common sense conservative" will get the GOP nod in the end.
So there you have it: Perry and Bachmann are the favorites among climate-skeptical politicians milling around the Heartland conference. Richard Rothschild, a Republican county commissioner from Carroll County, MD, boiled it down neatly.
"I personally thing the strongest team the Republicans could field this year is Rick Perry as a presidential candidate and Michele Bachmann as vice president," he said. "I think that's our best chance to take back the presidency in 2012."