Soaring gasoline prices have eroded President Barack Obama’s job-approval ratings and exposed him to political attacks even as futures markets, the chairman of the Federal Reserve and some analysts say prices may soon peak.
House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, underlined the growing political pressure on Obama last week, saying the president “certainly isn’t gonna win” re-election next year if gasoline prices, now close to a national average of $4 per gallon, reach $5 or $6.
“I believe prices will stabilize and that $4 a gallon will be an outlier rather than an average during driving season,” Tom Kloza, chief analyst with the Oil Price Information Service, wrote in an e-mail.
Prices will be kept in check by “demand destruction” as consumers curb unnecessary driving and as several U.S. refineries now shut for maintenance are started up, Kloza said.
Since the twin oil shocks of the 1970s, gasoline prices have posed a potential threat for American presidents. Jimmy Carter’s presidency was derailed in part by energy-related issues. Amid rising gas prices, inflation rose to as high as 14.8 percent during the 1980 presidential campaign.
hose memories now shadow another Democratic White House as it struggles to nurture an economic recovery. Just 43 percent of Americans said they approved of Obama’s handling of the economy in a Bloomberg National Poll in March, while 52 percent disapproved.
“They’re worried about it, I think, with good reason,” said John Podesta, who was White House chief of staff for President Bill Clinton and now advises the Obama administration. “When the public turns sour, the guy sitting in the Oval Office bears some responsibility.”
Republicans blame high gas prices on the president’s failure to pursue new domestic oil supplies, including imposing a drilling moratorium after the BP Plc oil spill.
“His energy policy is hurting the average American because it’s causing the price of gas to go up,” Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota told Fox Business Network on April 27. “We’re not doing anything about expanding supply.”