Insiders: Rising Gas Prices Bad News for Democrats
As gas prices go up, Democratic Party prospects go down. That, at least, is the general consensus of the Democratic and Republican strategists surveyed in this week's National Journal Political Insiders poll. Nearly eight-in-ten Democratic Insiders said rising gas prices would hurt their party politically, while a full 96 percent of Republican respondents said the increases would be helpful to the GOP.
|How will rising gas prices affect your party's prospects for the 2012 elections?|
|Help a lot||47%||0%|
|Help a little||49%||2%|
|Hurt a little||1%||67%|
|Hurt a lot||0%||12%|
Insiders in both parties said higher gas prices could serve as both a reminder of and cause of tough economic times.
"Rising gas prices will always be a reminder of stagnant wages, and it makes an economic recovery harder to feel," said one Democratic Insider. "Voter frustration rises along with gas prices, and tends to be taken out on the incumbent, so even in a recovering economy, this could be a problem for the president."
"Gas prices could screw up the economic recovery big time, and President Obama will pay the price at the pump and in the voting booth," said another.
"If what now looks like an economic recovery is interrupted - by high gas prices or foreclosures or whatever - that reality will wash away all of Obama's advantages," agreed a Republican.
Many strategists pointed out that incumbents - and especially incumbent presidents - tend to bear the brunt of the fall-out when fuel prices jump.
"Gas prices are like the economy writ large: the president can do little to affect them but is held responsible anyway," said a Democratic strategist.
"The higher prices go, the more the wrong track measure in polling will increase. In the end, the party in power suffers when events like this occur," explained a Republican Insider, before adding, "The GOP must, however, have a credible way to lower prices, as opposed to simply blaming Obama."
Some Republicans saw rising energy costs as a chance to reignite the debate over the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which environmentalists oppose and the Obama administration has so far rejected.
"This is a real and painful economic hit for working families that Obama will own, particularly in light of his decision on Keystone," said one Republican.
MAP: Where is gas over $4 a gallon?
"Obama's Mideast policy failures and [Keystone] pipeline decision make him uniquely vulnerable on the issue," argued another.
Though nearly everyone agreed that gas price increases were bad news for President Obama and his party, several Insiders felt the negative impact would not be as severe as some of the more dire prognostications.
"Rising gas prices in a bad economy is kryptonite to Obama," said a Republican Insider. "However, if the economy continues an upward trend, it only helps the GOP at the margins."
"There are bigger fish to fry than gas prices, and if the economic indicators continue to point north, so will Obama's prospects," agreed a Democrat.
Another Democrat claimed, "Any negative economic news is not good for those in power. That said, the R's are hooked pretty closed to Big Oil and are about as credible on energy issues relating to consumers as Bernie Madoff is on ethics."
"While the early coverage of this development suggests it may imperil the president," explained a third Democrat, "years of watching focus groups suggests that voters will blame everyone in Washington, including the Republican House. If the price spike persists and voters remain angry about it in the fall, it will be bad news for incumbents, irrespective of party."
One Republican Insider even suggested the whole issue would explode and dissipate long before November. "Gas prices are always a story in the summer and are out of cycle by Election Day."