“There’s got to be something more important than getting reelected,” Perriello said in an interview with Politico. “If I lose my seat, and that’s the worst that happens, I could live with that.”

But the 34-year-old believes Democrats will win this fight.

“This is a gift,” Perriello said of the vote. “For the first time in a generation, we have the chance to redefine our energy economy. …This is a great moment for us.”

[Some people have asked me how they could help Members who are being targeted for their vote on Waxman-Markey. The EDF Fund (click here) has started running “Thank You” ads like the one above. There’s always the League of Conservation Voters. And you can learn more about Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA) by clicking here.]

Politico has a good profile of Rep. Perriello: “Climate vote threatens some Democrats’ careers.” Sadly, the conservatives are so desperate to stop any national move toward clean energy and climate action, they are going after all vulnerable members who voted to give future generations a chance at sustainable prosperity:

The opening quotes from Perriello make clear that he understands the health and well-being of the next 50 generations is more important than short-term political considerations. At the same time, he gets that the future is clean energy, even in Southern Virginia. So “rather than ducking the issue, he’s embracing what may have been the toughest vote of his young political career.” Here is the powerful statement he released on the vote:

(Click here to hear audio of Rep. Perriello talking about this legislation.)

Today we declare America’s energy independence and provide a blueprint for building the energy jobs and technology of the future right here at home. America can still out-innovate any other country on earth, and we cannot give in to those who doubt America’s ability to lead once more. Perhaps once in a generation we have the opportunity to revolutionize our economy in a way that creates for future generations the kind of jobs and opportunities that we inherited through the sacrifices of our parents. Today we reverse not only the hemorrhaging of energy sector jobs, but also the flood of our citizens’ dollars to those who would threaten our security.

Freedom isn’t free. Since September 11th our leaders have asked everything of our military families and very little of the rest of us. This bill is estimated to cost families approximately $12 per month -– a cost that could be offset by any household that reduces its energy. Therefore, families can choose to sacrifice $12 per month for national security or adjust the thermostat one degree. Have no doubt that clean energy will be the industry of our time. Investing in that industry now is what will put our country back on top over the next decade. If I have to choose between protecting our nation or protecting my popularity, I will choose our great Nation every time.

Southside Virginia will be one of the winners under this bill, accelerating its ascendance to being the future energy capital of Virginia. In a carbon-constrained economy, we will see a resurgence of nuclear power. We can convert former tobacco farms into future biomass producers. And we can see farm and municipal waste turned into power. This bill, particularly the elements those of us from rural districts negotiated, will spur investments in biomass fuels that can flourish on former tobacco farms. We can convert manure on our cattle and poultry farms into power and finally get some profits back to our hard-working farmers. We will not turn this economy around by hiding from our problems, but by having the courage to reinvent our competitive advantage.

Today is a vote for America over petro-dictators. It is a vote for innovation over the erosion of our jobs. It is a vote for demanding American leadership rather than settling for a slow slide behind India, China and other competitors. A vote against this bill is a vote to weaken this country, put our people at risk, and sit on the sidelines while we hemorrhage jobs. A vote for this bill is a vote for America’s security, her innovative spirit, good jobs for our citizens, and the future of our country.

Precisely.

How will the vote play in his district? Politico reports:

It’s unclear whether voters in this part of Virginia, where tobacco farms are shrinking, textile mills have shut down and unemployment remains well above the national average, will embrace Perriello’s optimism about green jobs and cap and trade. Like many Democrats from Republican-leaning districts, Perriello is back home this week defending what may be a game-changing vote with consequences for 2010.

Perriello is one of the top targets in a national barrage of attack ads by the National Republican Congressional Committee, which has paid for a rare off-year television ad campaign against Perriello and launched radio ads and automated phone calls against a handful of his fellow Democrats.

But Republican confidence may be a little premature.

“This is an issue that is very dependent on the overall state of the economy,” said Larry Sabato, who runs The Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, in an e-mail. “If the economy continues to be bad through 2010, then voters are more likely to give credence to the GOP charges.”

However, “if the economy improves,” Sabato continued, “voters won’t find the attacks credible. Really, how is anybody — even a professional economist — to know exactly what the effect of this bill will be? It’s so entangled with the rest of the economy.”

Indeed, the legislation doesn’t even have a direct impact on the barometer most Americans use to gauge the cost of energy — the price of gasoline.

“What’s going to increase the price of energy more?” asks E. Linwood Wright, an economic development consultant with the city of Danville, Va., in Perriello’s district. “The things in this bill? Or crude oil going back to $150-a-barrel?”

Indeed, Sabato seems somewhat unaware that the cap doesn’t even kick in until 2012, so other than in falsehood-filled Republican attack ads, you won’t see many people making the case that this bill has somehow hurt the economy in 2010. Indeed, the reverse may be true as Nobelist Paul Krugman explained: Climate action “now might actually help the economy recover from its current slump” by giving “businesses a reason to invest in new equipment and facilities.”

And how can you not love this guy:

The Republicans may win some seats because of this vote, but they can’t regain their souls for demagoguing the issue,” Perriello said.

As a candidate, Perriello broke the mold in ways, by taking Democratic stands in a decidedly Republican district. He seems to have retained that confidence coming out of the election and wants to help Obama be bold — even in south central Virginia.

“People are sick of cowardice,” Perriello said. “It’s not the easy votes, it’s the hard votes.”

Tom Perriello is a true American hero battling the soul-less opponents of climate and clean energy action.