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Newt Gingrich's big Super Tuesday gambit: win the gas pump vote

Ahead of Super Tuesday, Newt Gingrich is hammering Obama for an 'anti-energy policy' and playing up his own plan to reduce gas prices. It's a solid strategy, experts say, but will primary voters bite? 

By Staff writer / March 2, 2012

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich spoke in Woodstock, Ga., on Thursday. Ahead of Super Tuesday, Gingrich is hammering Obama for an 'anti-energy policy' and playing up his own plan to reduce gas prices.

Evan Vucci/AP/File

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Atlanta

Newt Gingrich picked up a golden nugget on the campaign trail ahead of Super Tuesday when someone who approached him said, “Ask Obama about his 9-9-9 plan” – a reference to former candidate Herman Cain's tax-reform proposal.

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Mr. Gingrich wrinkled his brow, bemused, and said, “What are you talking about?”

“$9.99 gas.”

With gasoline prices unseasonably high and expected to climb higher, Mr. Gingrich has zeroed in, laser-like, on the issue, perhaps hoping it will instill new life in his flagging presidential campaign ahead of next week's Super Tuesday contests in 10 states. He has already made the bold promise that, if he is elected president, Americans will once again be able to buy gasoline for $2.50 a gallon, and increasingly he is using the issue of soaring gasoline prices to hammer on President Obama and to distinguish himself from his GOP rivals.

“Finding issues where he can draw huge contrasts between Democratic policy and Republican policy has always been Newt's strength, and it's an excellent example of what he's doing right now,” says Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University, in Atlanta. “And just as a goal, it's one most Americans would applaud as opposed to an attitude of, we need higher gas prices in order to move away from fossil fuel.”

While Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum slug it out for a Super Tuesday win in Ohio, Gingrich has opened up a double-digit lead in his home state of Georgia. The state has the most delegates at stake, and a win here, built upon his $2.50-a-gallon gas plan, could propel another Gingrich come-from-behind run toward the nomination. Under such a scenario, fractious GOP voters would rally around Gingrich and his plan, especially as energy inflation, rising toward $4 a gallon this summer, pinches everyone from long-haul truckers to commuters.

Gingrich's plan is to boost domestic daily production by almost half by promoting drilling in Alaska, off both coasts, the Gulf, and the US interior. (Ohio could become a major oil producer under a Gingrich presidency, he noted on a radio show there Wednesday.) Such strokes of the presidential pen, he says, would quickly move world markets toward cheaper oil, push corner-store pump prices down, and create 1 million new jobs.

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