Political realities and gas prices
April 23rd, 2011
04:01 PM ET
11 years ago

Political realities and gas prices

Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama confronted two political realities this week:
- Rising gas prices are bad for a politician's poll numbers
- There is almost nothing a politician can do about it, at least in the short run.

The national average for gas rose another eight-tenths of a cent in the last 24 hours, to $3.856 a gallon, according to AAA. That's the 32nd consecutive day with an increase. Prices have risen nearly 31 cents a gallon during that streak, or nearly 9 percent.

CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley discusses the implications of the high gas prices for President Obama:


And during that same period, Obama has seen his approval ratings slide and an increase in Americans who say the country is heading in the wrong direction. The latest CNN Poll of Polls out Friday put the president's approval rating at 45 percent, with his disapproval number up to 52 percent. That's his lowest approval rating of 2011. (In contrast, 52 percent of Americans approved of the job he was doing in mid-January).

Obama noted the poll numbers during a re-election fundraiser Thursday night in Los Angeles, telling the gathering at the tony Tavern Restaurant, "My poll numbers go up and down depending on the latest crisis, and right now gas prices are weighing heavily on people."

Obama tried to empathize with hard-hit commuters at several stops on his West Coast swing. At another LA event, he said, "at a time of high gas prices - I know you've noticed," the crowd responded "Yes!"

The president said, "it's rough out there," trying to point out he's not that far removed from the impact. "I admit, Secret Service doesn't let me fill up (at) the pump anymore. But it hasn't been that long since I did."

In Saturday's weekly address, Obama again acknowledged the impact of the hikes on people: "Even if you haven't faced a job loss, it's still not easy out there. Your paycheck isn't getting bigger, while the cost of everything from college for your kids to gas for your car keeps rising. That's something on a lot of people's minds right now, with gas prices at $4 a gallon. It's just another burden when things were already pretty tough."

But, the president said, while the rising prices will be a political football, no one has a quick fix.
"Whenever gas prices shoot up, like clockwork, you see politicians racing to the cameras, waving three-point plans for $2 gas," he said. "You see people trying to grab headlines or score a few points. The truth is, there's no silver bullet that can bring down gas prices right away."

Still, Obama outlined his own attempt, having Attorney General Eric Holder launch a task force to look for fraud or manipulation of oil markets by traders and speculators.

And he repeated a populist criticism of Big Oil, pushing for the end of taxpayer subsidies to oil and gas companies. "That's $4 billion of your money going to these companies when they're making record profits and you're paying near record prices at the pump. It has to stop," Obama said.

Longer term, the president's address called for more investment in "clean, renewable fuels,” tying it into the Washington debate over the budget and proposed spending cuts.

"That's why I disagree so strongly with a proposal in Congress that cuts our investments in clean energy by 70 percent,” he said. “Yes, we have to get rid of wasteful spending - and make no mistake, we're going through every line of the budget scouring for savings. But we can do that without sacrificing our future."

The budget fight ultimately will play a bigger part in the president's numbers and the playing field for the 2012 election. Obama's attempt to frame the budget debate on clean energy against the prices at the pump is part of the strategy.

Also part of the strategy: Next week's schedule takes the president to Chicago to tape an appearance on "Oprah" and to Kennedy Space Center for the launch of the space shuttle Endeavour. A wide audience to make his case on the budget and a photo op at a mission commanded by Mark Kelly, the husband of Congressman Gabrielle Giffords, may be short-term political boosts as his re-election bid ramps up.

Obama likes to point out at his fund-raisers the unexpected crises he's seen since taking office. In Chicago, as he touted achievements in his first term, he told the crowd, "Along the way, we had to deal with pirates. Who thought we were going to have to deal with pirates? That wasn't in my campaign platform. Pandemic, earthquakes, oil spill."

He can add the gas prices to the list, with no easy answers.


Filed under: gas prices • President Obama
soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. Thankfully Independent

    The oil companies raised gas prices while Bush was president because they knew they could get away with it and W was in no danger of being voted out of office. The oil companies are raising prices under Obama's reign because they want him OUT!.

    April 23, 2011 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  2. bill

    I liked his other lecture when he said we should all go out and buy a Chevy Volt. What an idiot.

    April 23, 2011 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  3. Jon

    @Ancient Texan – actually, the moratorium on drilling in the Gulf was lifted a few months ago. This is in spite of that.

    April 23, 2011 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  4. MJ

    The last thing we need is an "Energy Tax" to fund Wind, Solar, and Electric Cars. He has wanted to push this through since day one. Just get us the fuel we need now. Sign the leases for drilling and go after those who are forcing costs up. Stop campaigning and get to work. The cost of gas is not only eating any extra dime we have, but all goods and services are escalating at an alarming rate. His ties to Unions are very alarming. You can't tell me that he is looking at this problem without a smile.

    April 23, 2011 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  5. Get A Grip

    We can't drill here due to this guy's moratorium on drilling in the Gulf, yet he gives/loans BILLIONS, yes BILLIONS, to Mexico, Columbia and Brazil for drilling. What a jerk this guy is!

    April 23, 2011 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  6. Albo58

    Global climate? Green and clean energy sources? THIS President can't do much about rising costs of gas? Pure rubbish! There is no such thing as man-made global warming unless ofcourse you have lots of investments in it! Green and clean energy is NOT developed yet, despite the $billions of taxdollars invested in it! There's a lot a President can do to affect gas prices, but he has to WANT to do it! The lib moonbats continue to mimic and cover for this inept President!

    April 23, 2011 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  7. James

    We need both short and long term solutions. Drilling makes no sense if we can't refine the stuff, and we haven't built a new refinery in forever. Fossil fuel actually are still in abundant supply, but using them will pollute our planet past the tipping point. So we need to end the subsidies to big oil and give them to companies that will work for renewable, non polluting energy. Increase investment at home in mass transit, get the cars off the road. Create jobs to make these, and retrain and hire those out of work.
    President Obama has seen nothing but crisis after crisis since coming into office, and the fact that this country is still together and still running is a tribute to his ability to help keep it afloat. I voted for him and I'll vote for him again, even though I don't agree with everything he does (particularly in regards to education, my field). The other side offers nothing but empty rhetoric, and no solutions. They simply want to yell and tell you what to be afraid of.

    April 23, 2011 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  8. duckbutter

    why is obama so againt the oil drilling .... its killing me ,high gas prices,,

    April 23, 2011 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  9. Sgt Schultz

    Great article CNN...Steve should get a promotion. All the Republican activists are trying to play games. When in reality, yes, the President has very little power because our nation is so dependent on the World markets. Yes China, India and other rapidly emerging markets are causing global demand to sky-rocket. Do you get that Republicans? Just because you increase supply temporarily the Wall Street futures speculators will keep jacking up the prices because of the global demand.

    The only way to fix this is to do exactly what Obama mentioned...diversify national energy sources, reduce consumption dramatically and work with the Big 3 U.S. automakers to focus on making more energy efficient vehicles. This is not the time to play Partisan games. Either help contribute to the problem or shut your pieholes already.

    April 23, 2011 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  10. gord

    oil and water don,t mix

    April 23, 2011 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  11. fayse

    TThe President cares deeply about the welfare of the American people. Drilling in the Gulf is almost as dangerous as the nuclear plants in Japan. The real problem is not if there will be another accident, it is when it will happen again. It will take decades for the damage to be fully understood. As for the price of gas, the President has little control over that and it is certainly not his fault.
    And to Larry, I too remember 1955 and it really wasn't all that great then either, Most of those years for me was spent in poverty and hunger. I worked hard and rose above it without the help of the Government handouts.
    Obama / Biden 2012 – that is my prayer.

    April 23, 2011 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  12. FM

    With all these never end problems, and some are thinking to hire "the lady from Alaska" for such the hectic job!!! She will run away without any notice.

    April 23, 2011 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  13. whatstheproblem

    regarding the deficit, i am so sick of every elected official telling me that they know how i feel, they tell the people who are losing their jobs or taking pay cuts that they understand. do they really? these are people who own private jets and winery's...they do not understand-ok? maybe they worked hard and sacrificed to get where they are but now they are there and they are not feeling the pain of the public. if their families are being affected they still have the means to help them
    how about this? every elected official can take a 20% pay cut until our state and federal deficit has been significantly reduced.
    and how about this? any elected official that does not offer to take their pay cut along with the rest of us does not get any votes come election time.
    imagine the fiscal impact of putting 20% of every elected official's pay in america back into our state & federal budget. then they can say they are really working 'for the people'
    even if we arent a person who lost their job or took a pay cut, you probably have been affected by budget cuts to the elderly or disabled or public school system.
    come on step up all elected officials and get in our boat, then you can say 'you know how i feel'

    April 23, 2011 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  14. arrowrod

    Gas prices, oh yeah.

    Now about the budget, let me talk about something else. Did I answer your question. By the way, I have a new proposal for clean energy. Share a shower.

    April 23, 2011 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  15. AAA

    Do not blame the president for the rise in gas prices. He has no control over it when the countries we support around the world are rich in oil and we need to keep them as friends for our political survival. Ask the Bush's how long they have friends of the Saudi royal family and the republicans befriending the Saudis for keeping the balance of power in the Middle East at the expense of protecting Israel. So stop blaming the president and what we need to do is offshore drilling, avoid facing another BP disaster and regulations monitored or come up with alternative energy. For the average person who complains without understanding our foreign politics, read and you will know that oil plays a big role in our foreign politics and we will never stop our dependency in foreign oil.

    April 23, 2011 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  16. King Dollar

    Easy US Dollar Down, Oil Up
    The president could push policy to stregthn dollar, but he doesnt

    April 23, 2011 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  17. valwayne

    Obama is 100% responsible for the massive increase in Gas and energy prices, which are also driving up food prices. If only he had allowed environmentally safe drilling in Alaska, but he blocked it! If only he had authorized more exploration and drilling in more offshore areas, but he blocked it. If only he hadn't stopped all new drilling in offshore areas authorized for drilling, but he ignored his own panel of experts and stopped it. If only he had allowed development of new safe nuclear power plants, but he's blocked any development there. So with Obama blocking all new domestic energy for the last two years we are stuck as Obama's foreign policy collapses resulting in chaos in the Middle East. And his unauthorized war against a nation that was no threat has been no help either. We are likely to see gas go to $6 or $7 or $8 per gallon, and the Person in this nation you can thank for it....is President Obama. No he can't do anything now....but he could have 2 years ago, and he didn't!

    April 23, 2011 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  18. Phil

    A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague.

    -Cicero
    Roman Senator and Defender of the Republic

    April 23, 2011 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  19. BinFL

    Mr. President, you definitely understand what it takes for our Country to move into the 21st century. Now if you could only push those right wingers & blue dog dems into listening to you and moving into the future then you will see another 4 years in the White House. Keep pushing!

    April 23, 2011 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  20. Jason M

    Really the only way Obama will lose is if the Republican's put forth a candidate who can attract independent voters and even conservative democrats. The "hardcore" Republican base that many of these candidates are trying to appeal to with "birther" issues or single issue voters like abortion or gay marriage isn't enough to grow the party and in fact, disenfranchises many voters towards the middle who would like to see a President who supports fiscal restraint. The only hope for the Republican party is to give up this crazy notion that the only candidates who stand a chance are the ones who can be the most crazy out of touch conservative. Look to Governor Gary Johnson of NM. Entrepreneur and business man, former Governor with an excellent track record of increasing government efficiency and reducing spending, and he is not a lifetime politician. He is the populist candidate Republicans are looking for with cross party (both to independents and dems) appeal and the only chance the Republicans have of taking on Obama in 2012

    April 24, 2011 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  21. Dave

    Are you better off now than you were at the end of the Bush term or has your standard of living gone down, has your cash available gone down, do you feel less secure in your home and job, do you feel like your congressman and senators are doing their jobs, do you feel important any more? Is this the CHANGE you wanted, well you got it and now we all have to live with it. I think my change meter has about had it and November 2012 I need another change.

    April 24, 2011 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  22. John

    Ancient Texan,

    The moratorium was already lifted. Also every drop in the gulf combined is literally a drop in the bucket. All of this oil would would be used up in a no time if we tried to live off it. Not that facts would matter to you. There are no easy or painless solutions, but that will not stop the GOP from treating Americans like babies that can not be told the truth.

    April 24, 2011 01:54 am at 1:54 am |
  23. Jack S

    What is this renewable energy you are talking about? Will there be enough land left to grow food for our country? Electric cars refueled by nuclear plants do have a future.

    April 24, 2011 02:28 am at 2:28 am |
  24. Chuck

    Here is the sad truth – take a look at CNN headlines – there is one about Obama and gas prices (glad he is starting another "commission to look into it", maybe we can get another czar? but the majority of the articles are about Palin – who is not relevant right now in world events and Trump (because they want to tear him down and discredit him). What about what is Obama DOING about gas prices, Libya, Syria, etc.??? oh yea – because he is busy "running for re-election, meeting with union leaders, and having fundraisers."

    I think the real answer is in the story way they try to hide – America feels it is headed in the wrong direction and Obama's approval ratings are WAY down – they cant have that of the messiah!!!
    grow up and do real and fair reporting – tell the stories – not what you want people to think about the sotr.

    April 24, 2011 07:02 am at 7:02 am |
  25. Steve851

    Open up America to drilling and the prices will go down. Let the market determine energy without government interference or subsidies.

    April 24, 2011 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
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