Skip to comments.Obama faces dilemma over gas prices as presidential campaign hits homestretch
Posted on 10/14/2012 4:12:50 PM PDT by markomalley
President Obama faces a dilemma as Mitt Romney bashes him over high gasoline prices in the final weeks of their close race.
Obama must decide whether to address the attacks head-on, or stay the course on a messaging strategy that has recently been addressing prices indirectly.
Democratic strategists and other experts argue that three weeks before voters go to the polls, Obama should steer clear of big messaging or policy pivots on gas prices.
Bringing the issue up this close to Election Day would be self-defeating at this point, said Paul Bledsoe, an independent consultant who was a climate change aide in the Clinton White House.
Dramatic action on energy appears unlikely before the election even as the campaigns tweak their closing arguments.
White House officials have said in recent months that a release from the nations Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) is an option on the table. But speculation about the prospect has dimmed in recent weeks as oil prices have fallen off their summer highs that reached around $100-per-barrel in mid-September.
Prices closed Friday at $91.86-per-barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Democratic political strategist Michael Stratton said that tapping the SPR would damage Obama.
Anything with gas prices that would be perceived as manipulative at this point would work against him, and would be perceived by everybody so cynically that it would be ineffective, he said.
Average nationwide gasoline prices are currently $3.79-per-gallon and have for weeks been setting records for the highest prices on specific days of the year, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). Prices, though, have been dropping in recent days.
Also, the current national average has been skewed upward by the major recent price spike in California, which saw average Golden State prices jump a half-dollar in a week to reach $4.67 on Oct. 9 before falling back, according to AAA.
Average nationwide prices are well below the all-time record of $4.11-per-gallon reached in the summer of 2008, when battles over drilling played a starring role in the election. That summer Obama, then a candidate, signaled what appeared to be new openness to offshore drilling if coupled with a wider energy strategy.
The president, when discussing energy policy this year, has mentioned pump prices to varying degrees. Obama, in energy policy speeches last spring when prices were surging and neared an average of $4-per-gallon, addressed high prices head-on and noted their toll on families wallets.
Obama and aides stressed at the time that there are no quick-fixes or silver bullets to address high prices, while touting his broad strategy centered on green energy, domestic oil-and-gas production, and boosting auto efficiency.
More recently, he has continued emphasizing U.S. oil production increases, falling import reliance, toughened auto efficiency, and green energy. But Obama has dropped the overt discussion of current pump prices and the lack of quick fixes.
Bledsoe said theres no reason to change course in the final weeks of the campaign. The president is probably best served by emphasizing the good news message on energy supply, which he is increasingly building into his stump speech, said Bledsoe, who also worked for Clintons Interior Department.
Romney is seeking to put Obama on the defensive over prices that have doubled since he became president, even though experts caution that policymakers have little impact on the costs, which are tethered to oil prices on world markets.
Average prices were $1.89-per-gallon when Obama took office in January of 2009, but that price reflects the drop in energy demand during the global economic downturn.
In the first Obama-Romney debate Oct. 3, the GOP nominee noted that prices have doubled on Obamas watch when listing burdens facing the middle class that he lays at Obamas feet, comments that also appear in his stump speeches.
Obama didnt parry the price attack directly, but touted his overall energy approach. Later in the debate Obama referenced prices when bashing tax breaks for oil companies, noting does anybody think that ExxonMobil needs some extra money when they're making money every time you go to the pump?
Chris Lehane, a veteran Democratic strategist, said emphasizing oil industry tax breaks is smart politics against Romney. The tax breaks and subsidies for oil companies gives you an offensive tool that targets where Romney is vulnerable, he said.
Another Democratic strategist similarly said that unless theres a major disruption in energy markets that send prices spiking, Obama should stay the course on energy messaging ahead of the election.
Obamas current messaging strategy will be tested in coming weeks.
Gov. Romney will continue to discuss how President Obamas failed energy policies have made life more difficult for middle-class families with skyrocketing gas prices, increasing costs, and by destroying jobs, said Amanda Henneberg, a spokeswoman for Romney. Americans cant afford four more years like the last four, and deserve better than what theyve received from President Obama.
Romney and other Republicans have bashed Obama for what they call undue restrictions on U.S. energy development in federally controlled lands and offshore, noting for instance that Obamas offshore oil-and-gas leasing plans keep the east and west coasts off-limits.
A spokesman for Obama's campaign, asked how the campaign will address gasoline prices in its closing arguments before Novembers election, responded by touting Obamas overall energy message.
When it comes to energy, after 30 years of inaction, President Obama has doubled fuel efficiency standards so our cars and trucks will go farther on a gallon of gas, helped double our production of job-creating clean wind and solar energies, and championed an all-of-the-above American energy strategy, spokesman Adam Fetcher said, noting oil production is at a 14-year high and natural gas production is at record highs.
Overall, energy policy has been tough going for Obama during his White House tenure.
For instance, he announced an expansion of offshore oil-and-gas leasing that included areas off the East Coast in late March of 2010. But three weeks later, the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, touching off the massive BP oil spill. The expanded leasing proposal was eventually scaled back, dropping the plan to make the new coastal areas available that had been off-limits.
Other struggles have included the failure of the federally backed solar company Solyndra, and the decision over the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, a project that environmentalists bitterly oppose but a substantial number of unions want.
The White House has delayed a decision on a cross-border permit for the Alberta-to-Texas pipeline until 2013, drawing what have become ongoing attacks from GOP pipeline advocates who call it a missed chance to create jobs.
The only dilemma Obama faces is the Constitutional mandate for a vote. Socialism doesn’t work for anyone except the ruling elite, so elections really put a crimp in things.
LOL! Right. Make the price of gas double in no time flat by removing incentive for new exploration on the industry that prolly pays the most in taxes in the USA
I would have thought Obama would be happy with gas prices. After all, didn't he say that energy prices would necessarily skyrocket under his plan?
Haven’t heard much about the gas prices lately on “the news”. I guess they’ve got Barry’s back on that.
The Elephant in the room is the value of our dollar. Hope Mitt rides that one during the debate.
Gov. Romney needs to be trained on how to easily interrupt and bully his opponent - you can be sure that’s what obozo is learning how to do ...
Of course. It’s going to be weird come January. They will suddenly be talking about stuff they haven’t mentioned in four years. I wonder if the regular Joes and Janes notice the disconnect. Yeah, they do this every switchover, but it will definitely be way more stark after their Zero worship.
And now things are just roaring along, aren't they? /s
Americans need to start realizing the consequences of the anti business and anti free market policies that they support.
What a dilemma ... he likes high gas prices, but the voters don’t. I feel so sad about his dilemma ... maybe he’ll get so stressed out that he’ll decide to move to Kenya and live in a shed, like his brother. Aaaah, the simple life!
Or the 2000 military deaths under his command.
If I'm not mistaken, that makes his Deaths per Month higher than Bush
Me neither. Perhaps it's because, as the article says, ave national gas prices are "well below" the record high of $4.11 per gal to #3.79.
I guess the new normal for theave national price is $3.79 now.
Gas prices should be a MAJOR issue!!!
The whole economic downfall happened when oil/gas prices peaked somewhere areound 2007. Landlords abandoned their apartment buildings and tenents because they could not afford to heat the buildings. Likewise, homeowners were leaving their houses behind. People were taking out loans from the bank just to heat their homes for a month.
Despite Obama's rhetoric, the price of heating oil and gasoline is what set off this whole recession back in 2007/2008.
In the next presidential debate, Romney would do well to bring up the fact due to Obama’s domestic oil policiy the high price of gas is causing all food and retail prices to soar for the Amereican people.
"So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it's just that it will bankrupt them because they're going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted."
Isn’t it too late for Zer0 to take a bong hit from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve?
You have a regime which by design is driving up the costs and uses of energy in all its forms the nations most a basic resource. By tinkering with our resources and restricting their flow through bureacratic over regulation or restriction even on the basic sources in electrical energy creation demanding other alternative uses other than ,coal, oil and natural gas by this regime .
It has not only by design, which the president has addmitted to,artifically driven up the costs doubling or trippling prices to all goods and services during his tenure in office.
Whats even worse is the massive corrpution resulting from that regime doling out tons of funds towards its campaign donners for so called alternate forms which dont work or are laughingly inefficient.
The Romney campaign would be remiss if it gives this socialist attempt to control a basic need a pass and a huge mistake because this policy affects everyone. It is a bread a butter issue.
Wrong. Mitt needs to know how to respond to the buttinski tactics. Something along the lines of: Mr. President, you were given time to express you views, now its my time to express mine - especially since you and your campaign have spent the last few months lying about my proposed policies and views. I believe the American peoiple deserve to here the truth. I understand you don't want the American people to here about my policies, plans and views from me because it doesn't comport with the lies you and your supporters have been spreading.
here = hear