Yes, as a rule of thumb. But no, probably not this time.
That's according to a group of journalists and analysts who got together yesterday on WAMU.
Ron Elving (Washington editor for NPR): The uptick in gas prices would seem to be very bad news for the president going into his re-election campaign. On the other hand, at least, at this point, the statistical evidence seems to be somewhat to the contrary. I heard Frank Newport of Gallup last night talking on public radio and saying, you know, there doesn't seem to be much correlation between what happens with gas prices and what happens with the president's approval rating. The president's approval rating, of course, tracks very closely with his re-election prospects, and so, incidentally, does that University of Michigan consumer confidence number.
Jennifer Rubin ("Right Turn" blogger at the Washington Post):
Well, I think all of these factors play into the president's campaign message. And he is going to try to make the election about a choice between the Republicans, who he'll paint as extremists and crazy people, and himself. The Republicans are going to try to make this, as do all challengers in a re-election year, as a referendum on the president. And they are going to point to every bit of data that they can see, whether it's the debt, whether it's unemployment , whether it's gas prices, and the strength or weakness of that argument is not necessarily within their control. And that's why, I think, you see some of the Republican candidates developing some alternative arguments and some alternative messages because, frankly, they know more than we do. They have economists, but those economists, I'm sure, of -- are of mixed mind, just like we are.
Eleanor Clift (Contributing editor for Newsweek and the Daily Beast): The Republicans are trying to blame the president for the high gas prices. And they're tying it to the Keystone Pipeline, which the president has stalled, rejected for the meantime, and it would bring oil from Canada into Texas. And Senate Republicans introduced legislation that if the president would want to tap into the strategic oil reserve to ease gas prices that he would have to do it on the condition that he would accept the Keystone Pipeline. The dirty, little secret, though, is that, even if that pipeline were approved, that oil would not stay in the U.S. It's scheduled for export out of Port Arthur, Texas, which turns out is an international trade zone where you can have tax-free transactions, but... ...Diane Rehm Show, NPR
Plenty of commenters out there would seem to disagree. Associated Press, for example -- or, maybe, the White House.
Soaring gasoline prices are threatening to undercut President Barack Obama's re-election prospects and offering Republicans an easy target. With prices pushing $4 a gallon and threatening to go even higher, Obama sought Thursday to confront rising public anxiety and strike back at his GOP critics.
"Only in politics do people root for bad news, do they greet bad news so enthusiastically," Obama said of Republicans. "You pay more; they're licking their chops." ...AP
Watch as AP changes its mind in October?
Matt Yglesias makes some interesting points. As countries move from the underdeveloped column into the developed column, the whole world consumes more gas. And that affects our economy as well as our gas prices, and in ways we don't always remember.
When China, India, or Brazil get richer, their citizens start trading bicycles for scooters and mopeds for cars. They’re flying more airplanes. This increases the global demand for oil and pushes prices up. All else being equal, this is inconvenient for American drivers. But it’s far from clear that it’s on net harmful to the American economy. American firms are hoping to export goods and services to rapidly growing economies. Every time Boeing sells a plane to an Asian airline, that increases the demand for jet fuel and makes driving marginally more expensive. But we’re better off in the fast-growing world than in the slow-growth, cheap-gas world of three years ago.
The real problem is not that gas gets expensive sometimes, but that the United States, with its extremely high levels of per capita oil consumption, is much more vulnerable to supply disruptions than are rich countries in Asia and Europe. A larger share of Americans drive on a daily basis, and they drive heavier cars longer distances. Not coincidentally, gasoline is cheaper here thanks to lower taxes. ...Slate
Some of us think the "fast-growing world" is a good thing. Others among us think that's not so good...