Will Gas Prices Tank Electoral Prospects for Democrats?

As midterms approaches, the White House is in turmoil over OPEC’s decision to cut oil production by 2 million barrels a day. The decision, if it leads to spikes in oil prices, will further enrich the Saudis and further strengthen Putin’s evil regime. It will also add upward pressure on inflation here in the United States at a time when the administration and its allies in Congress urgently need to convince voters that they have a firm grip on the country’s economic reins.

To have any hope of retaining a majority in the House of Representatives, Democrats will need to thread a series of needles in the coming weeks. They need to focus heavily on abortion and on Donald Trump’s escalating assault on the country’s democratic system of government, as independents are more likely to break the Democrat path on both issues. They must show that inflation, which polls say is the top concern of voters this election season, is being brought back under control – through a so-called “soft landing” despite the Federal Reserve’s increasingly aggressive rate hikes targeting both housing and and could also affect the labor market. They also need to show that Democrats really stand behind their constituents in key swing neighborhoods.

That brings me to California and the few Democrat-controlled swing districts the party needs to hold, along with the other handful of Republicans the Democrats desperately need to turn around to offset expected losses elsewhere in the country.

Most of these counties are located either in the Central Valley or in the suburbs of Los Angeles/Orange County, both of which are high-vehicle areas. In my opinion, the biggest single risk the Democrats face in their bid to retain control of Congress is rising gas prices in California.

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In the past two weeks, a combination of local refinery outages, California’s unique fuel refining requirements, a regime of high gas taxes, and according to Gov. Gavin Newsom, energy industry profits have caused gas pump prices in the Golden State to skyrocket in some regions the 7- exceeded the dollar mark.

As of Wednesday of this week, the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline nationwide was $3.83. In California, on the other hand, it was $6.42. For a low-income worker, say a farm hand, driving a pickup truck long distances in a remote rural area, that could easily add up to $100 a week to what they would pay if they lived elsewhere .

Gov. Newsom has launched investigations into price gouging in the oil industry and has promised to introduce windfall taxes against profit-hungry energy companies. In late September, his office released a statement that said: “At the end of August, crude oil prices were about $100 a barrel and the average gas price in California was $5.06; Now, even though oil prices have fallen to $85 a barrel, the average price of gas at the pump has risen to $6.29.” The California Energy Commission has also joined the fray, demanding answers from oil executives as to why prices in California are so high increased more than in other parts of the country. But Newsom’s threats against the oil industry and the CEC’s anger seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Since late September, prices in the Golden State have continued their relentless march north.

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