Political Capital with John Harwood

Politicians Seem Intent On "Fueling" Energy Crisis For Votes

New York Gas Prices at $4 per gallon

How can you tell which politicians are running for office? Easy: they're the ones who support a halt in the filling of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve!

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain are all on board. Clinton and McCain are also calling for a summer-time gas-tax "holiday" to save cash-strapped motorists a few cents per gallon--for a little while.

Never mind that serious energy policy experiments consider the gas-tax holiday a gimmick that would be counter-productive by increasing motorists' incentive to drive at a time when the opposite signal is needed.

President Bush noted in his news conferenceyesterday that halting the filling of SPR would have only a tiny impact on worldwide demand, and thus only a tiny effect on prices.

But candidates feel the need to react to public discontent, even if their reactions are of dubious value.

That's especially true at a time when candidates are scrapping for the support of working class voters, as Clinton and Obama are doing right now in Indiana and North Carolina.

Harwood on Gas Tax Holiday

In fact, that's what makes Obama's refusal to embrace the gas-tax holiday all the more striking.

Can the non-political move on gas taxes turn into good politics for Obama at a moment when he has faced criticism for his handling of former pastor Jeremiah Wright.

We'll know on May 6, the next election day in the Democratic nomination fight.

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