Surprise: Sunday's Lead Slot Warns High Gas Prices May Hurt Obama's Reelection Chances

Sunday’s New York Times front page brought a rare focus on a trend favorable to the GOP, high gasoline prices under the Obama administration (and in the lead slot no less): Michael Shear’s “High Gas Prices Give GOP Issue To Attack Obama – New Peril To Recovery – Candidates and Boehner Plan to Capitalize on Anger at Pump.”

The Times tends to soft-pedal such dangers during Democratic administrations, while playing them up during Republican ones. In March 2011 a headline read under a story by Jad Mouawad and Nick Bunkley found: "Rising Gas Cost Finds The Nation Better Prepared - Lessons Learned In '08 - Less Dependence on Oil - Spike Unlikely to Derail Recovery.” Mouawad was far more pessimistic during the Bush years about a far lower gas price. An August 17, 2005 story he cowrote with David Leonhardt warned "sharp rises in oil and gas prices have coincided with the onsets of recessions over the last 25 years."

From Sunday’s lead:

Rising gasoline prices, trumpeted in foot-tall numbers on street corners across the country, are causing concern among advisers to President Obama that a budding sense of economic optimism could be undermined just as he heads into the general election.

White House officials are preparing for Republicans to use consumer angst about the cost of oil and gas to condemn his energy programs and buttress their argument that his economic policies are not working.

In a closed-door meeting last week, Speaker John A. Boehner instructed fellow Republicans to embrace the gas-pump anger they find among their constituents when they return to their districts for the Presidents’ Day recess.

“This debate is a debate we want to have,” Mr. Boehner told his conference on Wednesday, according to a Republican aide who was present. “It was reported this week that we’ll soon see $4-a-gallon gas prices. Maybe higher. Certainly, this summer will see the highest gas prices in years. Your constituents saw those reports, and they’ll be talking about it.”


For the president’s economic team, the specter of such increases in oil prices comes on the heels of positive economic news that has lifted Mr. Obama’s approval rating, including better-than-expected job growth, a surging stock market and a payroll tax deal that will put more money in the pockets of millions of Americans.

But Mr. Boehner’s message to his members echoes the aggressive talk coming from the Republican campaign trail, where the men vying for the right to challenge Mr. Obama are increasingly blaming Mr. Obama’s administration for rising gas prices. A gallon of gas had dropped to $1.89 when Mr. Obama took office in 2009, in large part because of the fall in oil demand caused by the financial crisis, and has almost doubled since.


Shear suggested the price of gas was out of the president’s hand (never mind his anti-energy decisions regarding the Keystone XL pipeline and offshore drilling):

For Mr. Obama’s economic team, the increase in oil prices is an unwelcome reminder of how global events largely outside their control can hamper a recovery. For the third year in a row, a modest recovery faces head winds as winter turns to spring.