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Achilles Heel

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I maintain that rising gas prices are the biggest threat to Obama’s reelection. New polling by the Washington Post suggests this is probably correct.

I do think that, no matter how high gas prices go up, Obama will have plenty of ability to fight back on this. Republicans will naturally demagogue the issue to high heaven, but so far they have nothing more than insult our intelligence when talking about gas prices. Sure, Newt’s promise of $2.50 a gallon sounds great, but it’s obvious he has absolutely no plan to get there.

I feel Obama’s best strategy when it comes to gas prices is to demonize the oil companies. Nobody likes them, or at least the petroleum companies are not huge players in many battleground states. Maybe voters in Texas and Louisiana will be put off some by an attack on big oil, but a) maybe not and b) who cares. If he attacks petroleum company profits, which have consistently set records over the past decade at times of price spikes, I think he can tap into some of that 99% energy and push back enough on the gas issue to limit the damage.

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  • chimneyswift

    Gas prices going up are a sign of economic recovery. We are at peak oil production right now, which means that any increase in demand leads to sharp, immediate price spikes. Commodity traders know this, and thus drive the price up with speculation in advance of an accelerating economy. This relationship isn’t going anywhere, so politicians better have an answer of some sort. Certainly the guardians of civil discourse in the major media corporations will never let the plain facts be spoken.

    • Although one could crack down on speculators.

      • jeer9

        Very funny. I never thought anyone could surpass Mr. Gonzales as AG but Holder is certainly giving him a run for his money. Obama remains a lock for re-election.

        • joe from Lowell

          Lol I know, right? LIke that would ever happen.

          Oops.

          • Furious Jorge

            Ooooooooooh – a task force! Well that sure sets my mind at ease.

            Joe, I tend to agree with you here, broadly speaking, but ordering a task force doesn’t mean shit.

            • joe from Lowell

              Hey, I know this game!

              Why don’t Muslims ever denounce terrorism?

              Uh, they do, here and here and here.

              OK, but why don’t they do it more?

              • dangermaus

                He totally reconvened a task force that failed to accomplish anything meaningful within a year after it originally being convened!

                WHAT MORE DO YOU IRRATIONAL, UNCOMPROMISING RADICALS WANT

          • Anonymous

            His administration says, however, that the panel never stopped working, an assertion seemingly at odds with the White House announcement that it will resume action.

            As McClatchy Newspapers recently reported, the task force has done very little in the past 10 months. Administration sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter, acknowledged that the inter-agency task force had met only five times last year, three of those soon after its April 21 formation. The working group now has met seven times in all, the Justice Department said Thursday.

            lolz, lolz

    • But not necessarily an American economic recovery.

  • Ken

    Sure, Newt’s promise of $2.50 a gallon sounds great, but it’s obvious he has absolutely no plan to get there.

    That’s what they said about his plan for a manned Moon base by the end of his second term, too. And they were right…

    (The only way I can see for Newt to help lower gas prices would be feeding him into a refinery, but that wouldn’t produce more than a couple gallons of gas and a half-ton of petrochemical sludge.)

    • Hogan

      My idea was to have him give everyone a dollar every time they buy a gallon of gas. Or two dollars, if necessary.

    • Anne Efraim

      Ken, you are grossly underestimating the gross bulk of the Newt. If you haven’t recently seen pictures of the man, I can forgive you this mistake.

      Newt’s circumference is vast.

      In many recent pictures, it is clear that if you were to stand within 100-150 feet of him, you would be in the free fire zone.

      The zone is so called because it’s the area in which the buttons on his suit are most likely to penetrate when they are forcibly released (with high explosive energy) from their role in restraining his bulk inside the confines of his suit jacket.

      There are a thousand and one reasons why Newt is unqualified for the Presidency. One obvious and important one is that his porcine mass would be a clear and present danger to the rather modest heavy cargo hauling capacity of Air Force One.

  • Who remembers any of the attacks the GOP has made on Obama over gas prices this semester?

    Apart from Gingrich and “algae,” none of the attacks have stuck, anymore than attacking W in 2008 was sticking. People understand the price of gas is a function of the free market and there’s very little the President can do (mostly because Fox bleated it loud and clear back then) to bring prices down or stabilize them.

    So long as prices inch up (or even bounce up the way they did last week) Obama has some slack. If they leap up by significant percentages (10% in a week is a good rule-o-thumb,) he will have to go after gougers and speculators. Until then, he can talk his way out of things.

  • simple mind

    Didn’t Carter try demonizing the oil companies (Windfall Profits Tax)? Dangerous road.

  • mpowell

    This may be the biggest problem in American politics. Bigger even than all the corporate money. The problem is that American voters are dumb as sh*t and make a huge f*cking deal out of gas prices. It’s even more important to them than the general state of the economy when determing their opinion of the president. I guess even at 8% unemployment, you have 92% employed and all of those folks see higher gas prices as hurting them. Even if employment goes up 1%, that’s a tiny fraction of voters.

    Going after the gas companies is probably a good idea, but it’s still going to be a major negative for Obama. This idiotic view by the American voters has prevented rational policy-making for a long time, but it’s going to get a lot worse now that we are essentially experiencing some form of peak oil. The Republican party picked the perfect time to completely melt down on governing ability because I see the next 10 or 20 years as a time period where Democrats will get repeatedly screwed on this issue and lose a number of times to Republican candidates they would have no business losing to if the American public didn’t have this ridiculous obsession for evaluating public officials based on the price of gas at the pump.

    • Anonymous
      • joe from Lowell

        The article you link to gets it exactly right; it’s not the gas prices themselves, but a slowdown in the recovery from higher fuel prices, that’s the biggest threat.

    • I dunno. After the BP spill, I think Americans are a little gunshy about the oil companies.

    • Lee

      Gas prices are big deal in America because most Americans live in areas where public transport is either poor or piss poor. It really shouldn’t be this way but Americans decided that they like driving better than taking the trolley, train, or bus and acted accordingly.

      • joe from Lowell

        Americans decided they liked driving better only after they moved to places that don’t have good public transit, and aren’t designed to make transit usable.

        Almost nobody moves to the sprawl-burbs because they hate transit and love long drives. They move there for other reasons and then make their transportation decisions based on the options available to them.

        • ploeg

          And then the jobs moved to the sprawl-burbs, and other people moved out there to be closer to the jobs, and they couldn’t live in high-density housing because of the existing zoning, etc. etc. etc.

    • Bill Murray

      I guess even at 8% unemployment, you have 92% employed and all of those folks see higher gas prices as hurting them.

      well the employment to working age population ratio is around 58-59% and hasn’t really changed since September of 09. The U-3 unemployment number isn’t really a good measure of unemployment. For instance, unemployment will go up if more people rejoin the work force than find jobs

  • bobbo

    There is another reason I am not worried about this. It is March. I don’t see why anyone is so sure gas prices will continue to go up, up, up, from now until November.

  • According to this, US petrol prices are currently $3.70 or so. Boo-hoo. I live in the UK. Here a gallon of petrol costs £6.00 (it’s even made the news). That’s about $9.50. It’s more expensive on the Continent, too.

    • Hogan

      Yeah, but you have trains and stuff.

    • Six pounds a gallon?

      Don’t you mean “litre”? Because my recollection is it should be somewhere north of $10 a gallon there by now.

      • Hogan

        Linked Guardian article says six pounds per gallon (and also breaks it down into per-litre for unleaded and diesel).

  • UserGoogol

    It’s kind of tenuous (and to some extent a post hoc fallacy) to try to read causal relationships like that from one poll. There’s a certain amount of random noise, both from sampling error and people just having some collective fickleness. Of course it’s obviously true that rising gas prices are a negative all other things being equal, but you really really can’t get worked up over one poll.

    In general I’d be skeptical that you could get too big a factor from this. Rising gas prices is a big part of “perceived inflation” but it’s just one component out of many.

    • John F

      It’s kind of tenuous (and to some extent a post hoc fallacy) to try to read causal relationships like that from one poll. There’s a certain amount of random noise,

      which is what 538.com just posted- the latest poll looks like random noise, the poll aggregation sites are showing little to no actual movement.

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