Some Politically Pertinent Questions About the Oil Spill

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President Obama, touring the Gulf region today, was due to speak publicly at 1:30 p.m. He’s running late, no doubt still crafting his comments and conferring with local officials. While we wait, here are some questions on the political implications of this disaster we’re sure to come back to in the weeks and months ahead.

In the short term:

1. Optics: Will images of Obama touring the Gulf (in tomorrow’s newspapers and on the evening news) affect the way the public views his response to the disaster? If and when oil starts washing ashore at a faster rate, how will images of dead wildlife and oil-soaked beaches affect the public perception of the disaster and the federal response? Remember these pictures?

2. The blame game: Will Republicans gain a stronger political foothold with the notion that local efforts to stop the spread of the oil were hampered by federal officials?

3. Ending the crisis: What will be the final political fallout for Obama if the leak is definitively stopped over the weekend?

In the long term:

1. Restitution: Will the businesses, fisherman and residents harmed by the oil spill be fairly compensated by BP? Will the federal government monitor the process to ensure it’s just?

2. Drill, maybe, drill?: Obama, after endorsement an expansion of offshore drilling several months ago, has already called for more reviews and license delays in the wake of the BP spill. Will offshore drilling be further affected? Will backers of the cap and trade bill be able to use the disaster to push through the legislation this year?

3. Optics, part deux: Will Republicans use footage of the disaster and Obama in campaign ads this fall? The NRSC already used these images – along with Democratic James Carville’s emotional plea to Obama – in a web video.

4. Jindal: Will this crisis put Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal back in the conversation about GOP candidates for 2012? He was a rising national star in the Republican Party at one time; could this be his rebirth?

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