The soaring cost of gasoline may end up being the most important issue of the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign.
A poll by ABC News and the Washington Post published Monday morning revealed that prices at the pump have overtaken voters' minds and have come with a higher disapproval rating of President Barack Obama, making the issue the biggest thorn in his re-election effort at the moment.
President Obama's approval rating slipped from 50 to 46 percent the last month, according to the national three-day survey, but the more specific question about gas prices is a lot more telling. Now that filling up the car cost an extra 49 cents a gallon this year to an average of $3.79, 65 percent of those surveyed disapproved of the situation with gas prices and only 26 percent approved.
The president's handling of the issue has surpassed the federal budget deficit and the threat of a nuclear Iran as the one thing voters disapprove of the most.
Republicans Slam Obama On Gas Prices
The survey is new, but Republicans have been lambasting the president on gas since the season began.
Newt Gingrich, for one, has been trumpeting the issue of gas like Herman Cain shoved his simple-sounding 9-9-9 tax plan down everyone's throats. Gingrich claims he would lower gas to $2.50 a gallon if he is elected and is running commercials in southern states with upcoming primaries to promote the campaign promise. He's also encouraging his followers on Twitter to use the hashtag #250gas and called a Florida man, apparently his 175,000th donor, for contributing $2.50 in honor of the pledge.
Rick Santorum also blamed Obama's inaction in the Middle East for rising gas prices at a rally in Kansas Wednesday, but predicted at a campaign stop in Missouri that a nuclear Iran may be the issue of the day come this fall, according to the National Journal.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Thursday the president was in part to blame for higher prices at the pump, and Ron Paul wrote in a CNBC editorial published last week that addressing this challenge must be a top priority for our next President.
While coverage of Obama's handling of the economy dominates current news coverage, trends in the media say gas prices will likely soon take over. Politico's Dylan Byers predicts English-language news stories about Obama and Gas Prices will become more popular than stories about Obama and Iran. Chris Cilizza and Aaron Blake of the Fix similarly observed: It's the gas prices, stupid.
Unsurprisingly, press secretary Jay Carney was grilled about gas at a press briefing Monday afternoon. Without specifically referring to Gingrich, Carney claimed anyone who said they can reduce the price of gas to $2.50 is lying (via White House Dossier). At another briefing in February, Carney said factors beyond its control, like global oil markets, are responsible for the spike, Reuters reported.
Voters Still Think Obama Will Win 2012 Election
Even though President Barack Obama's approval rating has dropped as gas prices have risen, more Americans still believe Obama has a better chance of winning the election than a Republican candidate (see image in slideshow above).
Since October, expectations about who will win the 2012 general election have completely crisscrossed. Surveys reported that 55 percent of voters believed the GOP candidate would win the election, while 37 percent thought the vote would go to Obama. The most recent poll from March 3 now says that 54 percent of Americans think Obama will get re-elected, while 40 percent think the Republican nominee will win. In a match-up between Romney, who currently leads in the primary delegate race, and Obama, Romney leads 49 percent to Obama's 47 percent.