As the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll makes clear, the political reality of the economic consequences of higher gasoline prices are beginning to hurt President Obama. And they should. As I’ve said before, gasoline prices have a real-time effect on American families and almost all businesses.
Obama’s response has been a good case study in how liberals address a problem they don’t want to solve: There is a government working group whose only recommendation so far has been to assemble more lawyers to think about it, Obama says there is nothing he can really do about it, the problem may be solved through government manipulation of the marketplace and government-mandated lifestyle changes that will affect our children’s lives as much as our own, and oh by the way, he can’t really bring himself to say today’s high prices are undesirable and that he is aggressively going to try and do something about it.
If he could put ideology aside, he would read Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R) op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, send a copy to his so-called working group, and direct the members to do everything mentioned in this brief op-ed. Jindal puts to lie the notion that nothing can be done in the near-term about gasoline prices.
If Obama were really bold, he could learn a lesson from Newt Gingrich. If Gingrich has any traction at all in the Mississippi and Alabama primaries tomorrow, it’s in no small part because of his pledge to bring gasoline prices down to $2.50 a gallon in two years. I don’t know how realistic this is, but I’m sure Newt gets credit for at least having a plan; at least trying to solve a big problem with a big idea.
Gasoline prices are politically salient, and they will be in November. Obama is in a trap of his own making.
The poll makes plain that Obama has decent approval numbers and manageable negatives. I think he always will. A lot of people wish Obama well, but the realities of gasoline prices, high unemployment, low growth, and an unfocused and problem-prone foreign policy may overwhelm people’s otherwise favorable disposition toward Obama.