HOUSTON — If gasoline prices reach $5 a gallon as some experts are predicting, President Obama has the most to lose in his bid to keep his job, two former governors said on Friday.
“If it’s at five bucks, voters will wonder who’s fault it is, they look up, and they blame the incumbent,” former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said at a major energy conference here. “The president has to watch it, but I think he has taken steps.”
Richardson, a Democrat who ran for president in 2008, noted the actions the Obama administration has taken on alternatively fueled vehicles.
“I think he’s cushioned himself well,” Richardson said.
“If you have five-dollar gasoline, it will be just one more lump of coal on top of that opinion — I’m afraid my children and grandchildren are not going to inherit the same country I inherited,” said former GOP Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour at the conference, which was hosted by IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates and brought together hundreds of executives from all parts of the energy industry around the world. “That fear is what I think takes an incumbent president and makes him very, very vulnerable to defeat.”
Both governors said Obama, being an incumbent, is favored to win come November. But Barbour said the GOP could succeed in November if his party makes the election about Obama — something the long primary has distracted the nominees from doing much of so far.
“The Republicans have a chance to win if this election is a referendum on President Obama’s policies,” said Barbour, who briefly considered running for president this election cycle. “Obama can’t run on his record. If it’s about something else — and that’s why these primaries have been so troublesome to so many Republicans because they’re about anything but Obama’s record.”
Richardson predicted Obama will narrowly win in November, largely because of Hispanic voters.
“Obama wins by five to seven electoral votes because of the Hispanic states in the Southwest going his way,” said Richardson, who is Hispanic himself. “If [Florida GOP Sen. Marco] Rubio is on the ticket in Florida, we lose Florida, but we still win the presidency by those Hispanic states.”