Sky-high gasoline prices could decide presidential election

Richard G. Carter | 10/12/2012, 4:17 p.m.
"Just such odd circumstances seem to provide us with suitable personnel..."--Alec Guinness, "Tinker Tailor Soldier...
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"Just such odd circumstances seem to provide us with suitable personnel..."--Alec Guinness, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" (1979)

When I was a young Army lieutenant at Fort Belvoir, Va., in the early days of the Vietnam War, I lived off-post in interservice military housing on the nearby Quantico Marine base. Each morning, while driving to my duties as a supply officer, I'd fill my tank at gasoline service stations, where the price of regular was 19.9 cents per gallon.

I drove an older model car in those days, and 19.9 cents seemed fair to me--especially with a wife and two young children to support. Thus, I barely gave it a thought. However, I've thought about it a lot the last few months with gas prices soaring from coast to coast.

In mid-February, regular gas cost an average of $3.50 per gallon. The average, today, is $3.84 to $4.19 in the New York City area, $4.49 in Washington, D.C., and a whopping $5.09 in Los Angeles. These prices heavily impact millions of family budgets.

Now the operative question: With President Barack Hussein Obama's approval ratings sinking and Republicans hammering him over rising gas prices, will his re-election prospects be impacted? The startling increases are on Obama's watch, and as my Army service taught me, a unit leader is credited when things go right and is blamed when they go wrong.

It's clear that higher and higher gas prices will be a key issue in the campaign for president this summer. Whether Obama is opposed by Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum, you know they will hit the issue hard. Indeed, with the price of oil having doubled under Obama, gas prices could turn out to be the president's Achilles' heel.

Notwithstanding Newt Gingrich's blue-sky assertion that, as president, he'd get gas prices reduced to $2.50 per gallon, high prices are really bad news for Obama. When he was sworn in three years ago, regular was $1.84-per-gallon. Can you believe it?

And according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, his signature legislation, Obamacare, is now estimated to cost $1.7 trillion through 2022--more than twice the $940 billion originally forecast. Furthermore, unemployment was 7.8 percent when Obama took office, and it's 8.3 percent today--but those are stories for another day.

Recent polling indicates that 89 percent of Americans are concerned about higher gas prices and 50 percent feel the Obama administration is not doing enough to address the situation.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu told the Wall Street Journal in 2008, "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." Huh? What? Can you believe it?

Last week, Chu backed away from his goofball desire for America to emulate European gas prices when they were about $8 per gallon--which would have been a recipe for disaster. A recent analysis by CNN revealed that regular gas cost $4.55 per gallon in Spain, $5.35 in Portugal and $5.96 in Italy.