Tales from the Trail

Obama doesn’t drive, but he feels your pain at the pump

President Barack Obama says he sympathizes with the frustration over high gas prices — even though it’s been a while since he’s had to fill a tank.

“I’ll admit to you, it’s been a while since I … filled up at the pump,” Obama joked during a townhall-style event. “Secret Service doesn’t let me get out, and they don’t let me drive anymore.” USA

The event at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale was part of Obama’s ongoing effort to sell the deficit-reduction plan he introduced last week and gear up for a 2012 re-election campaign.

Gas prices, which hit a 2.5-year-high last week at $3.84 a gallon, have weighed on public opinion in recent months. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll in March found that gas prices were playing into Americans’ low confidence in the U.S. economy, and a Reuters/Ipsos poll released last week found rising energy costs hurt Obama’s approval rating.

Obama — who assured his audience that “it wasn’t that long ago that I did have to fill up my gas tank” – blamed speculators and oil companies for price increases and said his administration would investigate unfair practices and monitor gas stations for price-gauging.

Washington Extra – Slipping away

congress1The Democrats’ chances of retaining control of the House of Representatives are slipping away. Our latest Reuters/Ipsos poll suggests that Republicans are poised to win around 227 seats and Democrats about 208 seats in next month’s election. Unemployment is top of the agenda for voters, and there is no good news coming on that front between now and November 2 (the next reading on the jobless rate doesn’t even come until the Friday after the election). That means there is very little chance that Democrats can pull off a late surge.

Also slipping away is President Barack Obama’s approval rating, to a new low in our poll, with much of the decline coming from his own Democratic supporters. His handling of the economy remains a leading cause of the drop. Again, any hope of energizing the Democratic base now looks slim.

More interesting is the race for control of the Senate. Ipsos says the poll numbers suggest Democrats will win 52 seats to 48 seats for the Republicans, the same margin predicted by the poll of polls compiled by Real Clear Politics. But a number of races are still very close.

from Summit Notebook:

U.S. Commerce Secretary doesn’t like ring of Shanghai Silicon Valley

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke says one thing he doesn't want to see is a Shanghai Silicon Valley develop from China's investment in clean energy.

He warned that if the United States doesn't move forward on clean energy, it risks falling behind China where the government is spending almost $100 billion a year to support renewable energy and clean energy efficiency.

And China is not doing it just to address climate change issues, but because it sees an economic opportunity. "They're really focusing investing in the clean energy field to serve the needs of the world," Locke said at the Reuters Washington Summit.