The reality of high gas prices and the successful advertising blitz of the McCain team has helped redefine the nature and relevance of the economy in voters' minds and in media discussion.
In making sense of the complexity of the economy, public focus has been shifted from housing, health care, and jobs to a singular fixation on energy, specifically gas prices. Given McCain's position on drilling, it's an interpretative shift that heavily favors his candidacy. Here's how The Politico described the GOP strategy with a noteworthy quote from the pollster Peter Brown:
"I think they have a real opportunity," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "What they're trying to do is redefine the economic issue as energy. The Republicans' biggest problem in this election is that they are viewed as less able to fix the economy. When the economy is defined as job loss, mortgage foreclosures, high health care costs, that's Democratic territory. Obama wants to play on that field.
"McCain wants to define it as being about energy, because his being in favor of drilling is on the right side of the numbers," said Brown.
Quinnipiac's most recent polling in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania did indeed show wide margins favoring offshore drilling, as well as narrowing leads for Obama, Brown said.
"Anything that shows that the Republicans are for drilling because they think it will lower gas prices, and the Democrats are against it, is probably good for Republicans," he said.
Colbert actually elaborated on the right-wing thinking regarding the oil market and offshore drilling last night... Basically saying that high prices now are due to evil oil speculators and the magical futures market will somehow fix everything if we give oil companies new leases. I'm sure it makes perfect sense to the sort of folks who think bombing Iran is a good idea.
Not to be a spoil sport but, isn't it true that the driving force behind rising prices is energy? If so, doesn't that make the economy about energy? Hasn't energy been a driving force in all the world's economies for centuries?
Wow, good catch.
IMO the response should be:
"This is just typical for the Republicans. To every problem, no matter how complex, they offer the same 'answers'... more bombing, more privatizing, and more drilling. Simple wrong answers to complex problems haven't worked very well so far. One definition of insanity is trying the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome."
I can easily understand why any statement to the effect of "Yes, high gas prices suck, so will a lot of things from now on." isn't going to fly; but what has me baffled is the common existence of the belief that offshore drilling will have any noticeable effect in the near term(or at all, for that matter).
Even if everything goes right, and you pull out all the stops, offshore well drilling is nontrivial, and takes time to set up. Once you do set up, you still need greater refining capacity, and some assurance that the reduced cost of inputs will end up as consumer surplus, not producer profit(yup, that's gonna happen).
Do people really know absolutely nothing about the gasoline supply chain, or has offshore drilling become a symbol in some broader mythological structure, the energy equivalent of "fiscally responsible republicans/tax and spend democrats"?