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?
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“The minute you have a president who says we're never going to bow to a Saudi king, we don't want to be the chief protector of the Strait of Hormuz, that day you would see a dramatic increase in the number of people willing to invest in less expensive oil, and prices would start trending down,” Gingrich said Wednesday. “This [administration]," he added, "has followed a deliberately anti-energy policy that Americans know will crush the economy and crush the family budget.”Skip to next paragraph
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Energy experts say it's possible for gasoline prices to return to $2.50 a gallon, or for prices to jump to $4 and beyond. But Gingrich's promise is not necessarily an empty one, they say.
“It's a very big stretch to say that more drilling will get you $2.50 gas, but I would agree that the market will respond immediately” to a major change in US energy policy, says Matthew Lewis at Ohio State University in Columbus, an economist who specializes in gasoline pricing.
Soaring gasoline prices have become a vulnerability for Obama. Just as President Bush once said he had no “magic wand” to reduce gas prices, Obama said last Saturday that he has no “silver bullet” to relieve pain at the pump. Obama also reiterated that domestic oil production has actually increased – largely due to private investment in shale oil above North Dakota's Bakken oil reserves. Moreover, Democrats contend that part of the recent price increase is a result of a stronger US economy driving up demand.
Obama also acknowledged last week that high gas prices are "like a tax straight out of [Americans'] paychecks." But his administration has also explicitly stated that curbing pump prices is not the highest priority.
Asked Tuesday by Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R) of Mississippi whether the administration's overall goal is to drive down gas prices, Energy Secretary Steven Chu answered, “No, the overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil” in order to diversify the energy supply and “help the American economy and the American consumers.”
According to a Pew Research/Washington Post poll released Friday, only 1 in 5 Americans mentions Obama when asked to pinpoint the blame for high gasoline prices. In a separate CBS News poll, however, more than half said a president can have an effect on gasoline prices.