Obama 2012 team fears voter backlash on gas prices

Tue Apr 5, 2011 6:11pm GMT

* Gasoline over $4 a gallon worries White House

* Oil at $125 a barrel could slow U.S. recovery

* Obama campaign fears voter backlash over gas prices

By Tim Reid and Alister Bull

WASHINGTON, April 5 (Reuters) - White House officials are increasingly worried that rising gasoline prices, and disruptions to the global oil supply, threaten not only the fragile U.S. economic recovery but the re-election prospects of President Barack Obama.

White House aides are particularly concerned that if gas prices surpass a national average of $4 a gallon -- and if oil passes $125 a barrel -- the economic and political fallout could dominate next year's presidential campaign and drown out Obama's message of economic recovery.

Publicly, the White House insists the U.S. economy can absorb a significant increase in oil prices. But privately some of Obama's aides concede the potential for voter backlash if prices continue to rise is a real political danger as Obama seeks a second term.

One senior White House official admitted to obsessively monitoring news that could affect the price of oil and said oil prices were tracked inside the West Wing daily. Another said oil prices, and the corresponding increase at the pump, has been preoccupying them for months.

With volatility in the Middle East already pushing the price of gas to a national average of $3.66 a gallon (3.8 l), and U.S. oil to nearly $109 a barrel, a senior administration official said $4 at the pump would be "a very significant number".   Continued...

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