DARREN GERSH, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: This is Darren Gersh in Washington. The price at the pump prompted the Obama administration today to
perform some political damage control.
KEN SALAZAR, INTERIOR SECRETARY: Domestic oil production is at an
eight-year high in the United States of America.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The global price of oil is
affected by a variety of factors, some of which are well beyond the control
of any administration.
HEATHER ZICHAL, WHITE HOUSE ENERGY ADVISOR: We’re not at a point
where we can drill our way out of this problem.
GERSH: Inflicting political damage is the job of Republican
presidential candidates. And they blasted the administration for allowing
gas prices to double on the president’s watch.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I sometimes wonder why he
does the things he does because they’re not good for America if they’re not
creating jobs, they’re not raising incomes, they’re not getting us gasoline
that we can afford.
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obama’s energy plan is
really only one word: No — no drilling, no Keystone Pipeline, no listening
to the American people.
GERSH: The criticism may be having an impact. A new
“Washington Post”/ABC News poll finds two out of three Americans now
disapprove of the president’s handling of gas prices. But analysts say the
connection between overall presidential approval ratings and gas prices is
not as clear cut as you might think. The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics found
a strong, but not overwhelming correlation between gas prices and overall
presidential approval ratings.
But analysts say many factors go into selecting a president. If the
economy keeps creating jobs, the president will be more likely to keep his
job even if oil prices rise further. But if the economy flat lines and gas
prices keep rising, the president will likely bear the blame.
GEOFFREY SKELLEY, POLITICAL ANALYST, UNIV. OF VIRGINIA: Gas prices
will be just kind of this easy thing to point to for why the economy is
bad. And that will be very bad for President Obama.
GERSH: But this begs the question of whether any president can in
fact control gas prices. Energy analysts say the answer there is easier.
KEVIN BOOK, MNG. DIR., CLEARVIEW ENERGY PARTNERS: If we did credibly
send a signal to the futures market that we were going to produce reserves
that no one had ever counted in their universe of supply, then OPEC could
conceivably say, well great, we’re going to tighten up, and you guys do all
the producing at your high cost, and we’ll keep our low cost oil off the
market. Bottom line: it might not change price very much at all.
GERSH: Darren Gersh, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, Washington.