We’ve documented the impact gas prices can have on presidential re-election numbers: when the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $2.43 or higher (in today’s dollars), the party that holds the White House ultimately loses the White House.
If you doubt it, compare the price at the pump one-termers Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush faced going into their re-election battles ($2.58, in today’s dollars) versus that of two-termers Bill Clinton and George W. Bush ($2.06).
Fifty-two cents is the difference between four more years in the White House or playing A LOT MORE golf. Google “golf” and “Obama” for yucks. He already plays A LOT of golf.
But as we all know, presidential elections aren’t won at the national level. They are won and lost in the electoral college. And, looking at the electoral college, high gas prices could cause the perfect storm and do some real damage to President Obama’s re-elect.
The national average for a gallon of regular gas at the time this was written was $3.72. While this average is sky-high in itself, the problem with Obamaga$ is that there are a bunch of swing states where gas prices are even higher.
First of all, let’s put aside what’s not up for grabs: even though California ($4.33), Connecticut ($3.98), Hawaii ($4.30), and New York ($3.96) have four of the five highest gas prices in America, they are among the most reliable Blue states and aren’t going anywhere. At the same time, Alaska, despite swimming in oil, also has among the highest gas prices ($4.25) in the nation. And, it will only get more Red.
But, if we look at the “Purple” states – those that voted for George W. Bush in 2004 but voted for Barack Obama in 2008, five of the nine are above the national average in gas prices: Florida ($3.78), Indiana ($3.81), Nevada ($3.76), North Carolina ($3.74), and Ohio ($3.75). Together, these average $3.77 for a gallon of regular, or a buck-nineteen (in today’s dollars) over and above those when Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush LOST their re-elections.
More importantly, they account for 79 electoral votes. Losing just these five Purple states would shave Obama’s margin from the 365 electoral votes he received in ‘08 to MUCH closer 286 (270 are needed). Further handicapping? A Republican presidential candidate has won these states a minimum of eight out of the last 13 occasions.
Before Democrats start jumping for joy over a slim victory, there is NO state in America that has gas prices that are not well over and above where past presidents have lost their re-elections. If we look at EVERY Purple state, the average gas price is $3.71. Carter and H.W. Bush lost with $2.06 (in today’s dollars) and NO party has maintained control of the White House with gas prices over $2.43 (in today’s dollars).
Losing all nine Purple states combined would give President Obama a 112 electoral vote haircut, dropping him from 365 to 253 and Obama would lose a close one.
How about the second and third tier states that Republicans pine for, but have only won in about a third of the last 13 presidential elections? If Obama is forced to chase and compete for those as well, he will be in BIG trouble: Maine, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. These are Obama “must win” states; Republicans have won the White House without them.
Gasoline averages $3.82 per gallon in these states, or a buck-thirty-nine over the $2.43 LOSER LINE (today’s dollars). These states represent an additional 57 electoral votes and losing them would give Obama a “shellacking” (his word).
The bottom line: incumbent presidents let gas prices rise at their own peril. And Obama-ga$ is no exception.