President Obama isn't taking the criticism lying down. But he faces the tough reality of history: The incumbent party in the White House typically loses an election that follows a gas-price jump. Notably, the issue may have been important to Jimmy Carter's 1976 win and his 1980 loss.
Here's what the president and his rivals are saying on the campaign trail lately, after gas prices jumped 30 cents per gallon (to a US average of $3.73) during February:
Playing defense, Obama has a threefold message: The price spike isn't his fault, he has a good energy policy, and Republican proposals are incomplete.
"There is no silver bullet. There never has been," he said recently. "It's the easiest thing in the world to make phony election-year promises about lower gas prices."
The White House is reminding voters that oil prices, the main driver of gasoline prices, are set in a global marketplace. And lately, the risk of confrontation over Iran's nuclear program has pushed prices up.
Obama says that, while Republicans have a one-note emphasis on drilling for fossil fuels at home, he is pursuing an "all of the above" energy policy. He says more domestic oil is being produced now than at any time in the past eight years. (For the record, an oil industry group says the rise in production stems from pre-Obama policies.) Obama's policies seek to nurture alternative fuels for the long run and set standards for new cars to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
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