Analysts: $3 A Gallon Gasoline Won’t Help Democrats At The Polls

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Gasoline prices hit $3 a gallon for the first time in several years thanks to booming U.S. oil production, but this may not be good news for Democrats facing tough re-elections Tuesday.

Political experts argue that low gas prices won’t help Democrats at the polls. A likely reason: Democrats have spent positioning themselves as anti-fossil fuels, they’re not getting credit (or even taking credit) for low gas prices.

“Low gas prices should help Democrats, but they’re not going to,” Mike McKenna, president of MRW Strategies, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The party has branded itself as opposed to fuels that people want to use.”

Democrats have been very vocal in recent years pushing policies to tackle global warming, which often involve curbing fossil fuel use, restricting oil and natural gas drilling and producing more green energy. These policies tend to drive up energy costs, including gas prices.

This election, Democrats have been hesitant to address energy issues in the wake of Obama administration rules to limit coal power and efforts to further regulate drilling on public lands. Energy state Democrats, in particular, have avoided mentioning falling gas prices for fear of being tied to Obama’s climate agenda.

“Basically, our theory was that high gas prices can hurt a president’s approval rating,” Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of “Sabato’s Crystal Ball” at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, told TheDCNF.

“However, the president doesn’t seem to get any approval reward for low gas prices,” Kondik said. “There’s no reason to think that low gas prices will help the Democrats in the election, and it does not seem like the president has had any real uptick in his approval rating lately.”

Politico Pro notes that four Senate battleground states — Kentucky, Colorado, Arkansas and Georgia — have seen some of the steepest gas price plunges this month, but Democratic candidates in those states aren’t touting this fact.

In fact, when Politico Pro asked the Democratic Senate campaigns in those four states about low gas prices, only Colorado Sen. Mark Udall’s responded, saying “[y]ou’re right, Coloradans have been feeling the benefit of cheaper gas prices.”

The response from Udall’s campaign then veered from the gas issue, saying Republican Senate challenger Rep. Cory Gardner, “wants to undermine middle-class financial security by raising taxes on hardworking families and forcing seniors to pay more for prescription drugs — putting his partisan ideology ahead of the needs of Colorado families.”

“It’s hard to take advantage of low gas prices when everyone knows you’re against coal, gas and oil,” McKenna said.

In Udall’s case, he’s been vocal about his support for a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, despite being in a major energy state. Udall, however, has not come out and said how much people should pay for emitting carbon. Gas prices could go up anywhere from 10 cents to a dollar per gallon depending on the size of the carbon tax.

North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan, on the other hand, is not in favor of a carbon tax and has expressed support for hydraulic fracturing and offshore drilling in her state. But Hagan has also supported the Environmental Protection Agency’s rules to limit carbon emissions from coal plants — a problematic position in a state that gets 38 percent of its electricity from coal.

“Senator Hagan opposes a carbon tax,” the southern senator’s spokeswoman told TheDCNF.

Hagan has touted her belief in man-made global warming, but was careful not to exclude any fuel sources from being part of the country’s future energy mix.

“Climate change is real and we ought to take common sense action to protect our environment,” Hagan says. “However, I wouldn’t support any measure that would have an adverse impact on middle class families… That’s why I support an all-of-the-above energy strategy that includes investments in renewables and biofuels that will help lessen our dependence on foreign oil.”

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