By Paul Goldman
Cheap energy built this country – and its politics; that’s a fact. Which is why if gasoline goes to $5 a gallon and stays there, the $14 trillion national debt will prove to be the smaller political number.
The future is now: The Democrats had best worry about the price of gas at the pump come next year. Every penny north of $3 a gallon on a sustained basis is trouble.
Now, $6 a gallon gas (as the Drudge Report is promoting) on a sustained level would probably require a scary geopolitical event. But the oil market is still run by a cartel at the margins, and furthermore, there are refining capacity issues, not merely production matters.
Forget green and all that for the immediate term: there is no alternative energy fix for the 2012 political cycle if gas at the pump starts freaking out voters.
Political bottom line: Let’s do the math.
Every PENNY over $3 a gallon on a SUSTAINED basis beginning with the late fall of this year is a problem for Democrats. It’s manageable but it poses risks of a spike at anytime — like, say, a few weeks before voting.
North of $4 puts the President and Tim Kaine in big trouble here in Virginia. Suburbanites are the swing voters, and they will have to fill up their tanks the week before voting. Every penny over $4 starts costing the President electoral votes he ultimately can’t afford to lose.
North of $5 means a reasonably – I didn’t say completely – sane GOP presidential candidate has to be considered the favorite to take the White House.
$6 and over? As long as we don’t end up with President Gingrich or Palin, we will have reason to be thankful.