Oil prices are climbing above $105 a barrel, thanks in part to ongoing tensions between Iran and the West. In the U.S., a gallon of gas is averaging $3.50, and some are projecting prices to hit $5 at the peak of the summer driving season. President Obama is enjoying a boost in the polls, largely because the economic recovery appears to be gaining momentum. But will pain at the pump sour voters on his presidency come November?
Definitely. Voters will blame the president: Unless Obama takes action, he will face "anger from voters hurt by gas prices," says Ron Klain at Bloomberg. For families coping with the sluggish economy, "the soaring numbers at the corner gas station are far more meaningful than the indexes at the New York Stock Exchange." Working-class voters in the "suburbs and exurbs are hit hardest" by high gas prices, and they comprise the bulk of the swing vote in presidential elections.
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The real issue is the economy: Actually, studies show that oil prices don't play a major role in presidential campaigns, says Brad Plumer at The Washington Post. However, the state of the economy definitely does, and Obama should be worried if high gas prices start to "crimp the broader recovery." The more consumers are paying at the pump, the less they're spending on American goods and services — and that's not good for the economy or Obama's reelection prospects.
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Republicans could get some of the blame, too: High gas prices would put Obama in a tight spot, says Ann McFeatters in the Boston Herald. But voters could "turn against GOP legislators" if they block Obama's proposals to promote energy independence. The latest spike in gas prices shows that dependence on foreign oil is "costly, tiresome, and dangerous" — which makes it all the more important to "produce affordable, renewable energy."
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