By Aaron Blake and Rachel Weiner
Slowly but surely, gas prices are beginning to be a real liability for President Obama.
The Associated Press noted this weekend that Obama has increasingly been talking about the issue and doing his best to feel the pain of the people he talks to, and it continued Monday.
And new Washington Post-ABC News polling data shed some real light on exactly why he’s talking about it.
The president’s approval rating among independents is at 42 percent, with 55 percent disapproving. Among those who view gas prices as a “serious financial hardship” in their lives, though, things are much worse: just 28 percent approve of Obama, while 67 percent disapprove.
Of those independents who said gas prices have hit them hard, 60 percent say they will not vote for Obama.
This is a problem for Obama because, while less than half of independents (41 percent) say gas prices are a serious hardship, there is a growing sense that gas prices could increase even further, which would make more and more independent voters off-limits to Obama.
Obama relied heavily on his strength among independents in 2008, winning them by eight points over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
The potency of the issue reflects how real the concerns over gas prices are for many Americans. More than the price of milk, their income tax rate or even the cost of day care, Americans can gauge on a daily basis just where the economy stands by how expensive gas is getting, because they see the prices posted everywhere they go.
And with sub-two-dollar gas still a very real memory for many people, the increase has been staggering.
This is why the rising price of gas is such a constant part of local news coverage; people get it, they’re not happy about it, and it is a very easy proxy for the state of the economy as a whole.
The effects of the soaring fuel costs have even registered in the past four months. People showed some optimism on the economy earlier this year and started giving Obama higher marks. But when gas prices began to rise, that optimism seemed to disappear — even as other factors remained largely the same and even improved (including the unemployment rate).
It’s very hard to overestimate the impact of gas prices on Obama’s reelection campaign, especially if other economic indicators don’t improve significantly.
First campaign ad targets Ryan budget: The 2012 plan of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) budget is officially campaign ad fodder.
Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul, the Democratic nominee in the upstate New York special House election, is set to go up with an ad today hitting state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin (R) on the Ryan budget — the first use of the budget in an actual campaign ad this cycle.
“Jane Corwin said she would have voted for the 2012 Republican budget that would essentially end Medicare,” the narrator says, before tying the Medicare cuts to tax cuts for the wealthy.
The ad is part of a 1,000-point ad buy with four weeks left in the special election campaign, according to a source close to the Hochul camp.
Several groups have launched ads mentioning the Ryan budget, but none were in races that have actually begun.
Hochul’s use of the issue in a tough special election could very well be a trial run for this strategy, which Democrats think could be a potent one in the 2012 elections.
Ron Paul to launch exploratory: Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) will take a formal step toward running for president again in 2012, saying Monday night that he will launch an exploratory committee today.
The official announcement is set for today in Iowa, but Paul teased it during an appearance on Fox News.
“We’re going to announce that I’m going to start an exploratory committee,” Paul said, according to Reuters. “I’ll stop by in Iowa on my way home, and that might lead to the next decision.”
Paul has what is viewed as an extremely devoted but small base within the Republican Party that gives him a platform to talk about his issues but leaves almost nobody giving him a chance to actually win.
In 2008, Paul finished in double digits in Iowa and Nevada but wound up with just 1 percent of the delegates.
Poll: Huckabee, Romney on top in S.C.: A new Winthrop University poll finds former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee still leads the GOP presidential field in the first primary in the South, but former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is close behind.
Among Republicans and Republican-leaning voters, 18 percent back Huckabee and 16 percent back Romney. The latter is edged out slightly by those who say they are “not sure,” at 17 percent.
Other than media mogul Donald Trump with 10 percent, no other contender gets in the double digits. Sarah Palin and former House speaker Newt Gingrich are both in the high single digits at 8 and 9 percent, respectively.
The results are particularly encouraging for Romney, a northeastern governor who came in fourth in South Carolina last time. But it’s still an early poll, and much of it is based solely on name ID.
‘Sneak peek’ at Obama’s strategy: Obama campaign manager Jim Messina put out a Web video Monday explaining the campaign’s 2012 strategy. After talking about how Obama won in 2008, Messina says, “If we just run that same campaign, we stand a good chance of losing. . . . In 2012, we have the opportunity to make 2008 look prehistoric.”
The focus is on grassroots organizing — local listening sessions, reaching out to friends and neighbors, using social media.
Messina’s video itself harkens back to the last campaign, when 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe would post video updates from the trail online. It’s not particularly inspiring film, but more nuts and bolts. (At one point Messina says, “This is the thing I’m passionate about: this campaign has to be metric driven.”) But the audience for this isn’t fence-sitters; it’s volunteers who want to know what’s going on and how to help.
NRCC calling ‘blank checks’: With Democrats attacking Republicans for their votes on the budget, the National Republican Congressional Committee is going after House Democrats who voted against it. They’re calling constituents in the districts of 13 of the 21 lawmakers who voted against all five budget proposals on the floor earlier this month.
“Last year, while families were tightening their belts, Larry Kissell and Nancy Pelosi failed to pass a budget, and Washington Democrats continued to spend your money recklessly,” says one call. “Last week, Kissell refused to vote for ANY of the five budget proposals that cut spending. Some plans cut a little, some plans cut a lot - Kissell rejected all of them.”
The NRCC is also launching radio and online ads, but we don’t know the size of the buy. It’s worth noting that three Republicans also voted against all five plans: Reps. David McKinley (W.Va.), Walter Jones (N.C.) and Denny Rehberg (Mont.).
- Signs point to North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk (R) running for the seat of retiring Sen. Kent Conrad (D). He would be the first major candidate in the race.
- Donald Trump’s would-be presidential campaign isn’t dishing on his New Hampshire plans this week, aside from one media availability.
- Candidates at next week’s Fox News debate in South Carolina will be given 60 seconds to respond to questions.
- New Jersey Secretary of State/Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) decides today whether Olympic Gold Medalist Carl Lewis (D) qualifies to run for state Senate.
- Levi Johnstonis writing a memoir. We’re surprised it took this long.
- “Obama revealed: A moderate Republican” — Ezra Klein, Washington Post
- “With Barbour out, new questions for 2012 Republican field” — Dan Balz, Washington Post
- “Missouri lawmakers hope to resolve new map this week” — Shira Toeplitz, CQ-Roll Call