Can Photo Ops Lower Gas Prices? Stay Tuned.

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LARRY W. SMITH / EPA

President Barack Obama walks past stacks of pipe in a storage yard near Cushing, Oklahoma, March 22, 2012.

No matter what happens to America,” the satirical pundit Stephen Colbert once observed, “She will always rebound with the most powerfully staged photo-ops in the world.” And so Barack Obama stood before a bunch of big pipes today in Cushing, Oklahoma, to announce that he was expediting a process that is already on the fast track for approval.

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Score one for American greatness. But that’s not all. Soon the Federal Register will publish a 1,000 word treatise by Barack Obama singing the praises of his decision to do something that will change next to nothing. “In an economy that relies on oil, rising prices at the pump affect all of us,” it begins. Three pages later, it mercifully ends.

In the big book of executive power, fighting short-term spikes in gasoline prices does not merit a long entry. But in the big book of national campaigns, blaming those in power for high gas prices gets a whole chapter. Barack Obama, of course, employed this move masterfully in 2008, when he appeared before a gas station in Indianapolis and blamed the Bush Administration for the rising costs. “The reason Americans keep going to the pump isn’t because oil companies are being particularly innovative, it’s because Washington politicians didn’t deal with the challenge of alternative energy when they had the chance,” he declared, before calling out Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force by name, which, for the record, did call for increased investment in alternative energy.

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Now Obama is the top Washington politician, and all of his efforts have not prevented a return of what is becoming a cyclical problem, caused largely by global economic factors beyond any politicians control. A recent poll by Purple Strategies of 2012 swing state voters found that 53% of independents say the President “should not be blamed” for the spike in prices, while 44% “will blame” the president if prices keep going up. Those numbers could be worse, and they show the president’s energy photo op offensive–he has been speaking about gas prices for nearly three weeks straight at this point–has been making an impact.

The Oklahoma stop is just a part of a four state, two day tour of the nation to talk about energy issues. “Producing more oil and gas here at home has been, and will continue to be, a critical part of our all-of-the-above strategy,” he said. He now flies to the swing state of Ohio, where he will drive this message home with a speech about advanced energy research at a The Ohio State University. It’s halftime in the photo-op fight for lower gas prices. And this President will not give up.

(PHOTOS: Retro Gas Stations)

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