Romney swipes energy issue from Gingrich’s grasp

Mitt Romney, showing signs of walking away from his nomination rivals in national polls, may be walking off with rival Newt Gingrich’s signature issue: energy.

With rising gas prices increasingly an issue on the campaign trail, Mr. Gingrich has been the most vocal and focused GOP candidate in criticizing President Obama’s policies and relentlessly bringing all recent interviews back to his promise to bring down gasoline prices to $2.50 a gallon from their current average of nearly $4 at the pump.

But it was Mr. Romney who offered an op-ed piece Monday in Ohio’s Columbus Dispatch under the headline, “America can be the world’s next energy superpower,” as polls showed the former Massachusetts governor gaining in a tight race with former Sen. Rick Santorum in Ohio’s GOP primary, a key prize in the Super Tuesday sweepstakes.

“The goal of my energy policy is straightforward: guarantee America the most affordable and reliable supply in the world,” Mr. Romney declares in the op-ed column. “Ohio is seeing firsthand the potential of this approach in the Marcellus Shale. The natural-gas revolution is creating direct jobs in construction and drilling, and producing a resurgence in American manufacturing. In the next couple of years, billions of dollars will be invested in the state in pursuit of these opportunities.”

That’s a “jobs, jobs, jobs” offer from Mr. Romney that he thinks Ohioans will find hard to turn down.

Mr. Gingrich, running far behind in Ohio and hoping to make a Super Tuesday stand in his longtime home state of Georgia, is banking on a belief that the price of gasoline is high on the average GOP primary voter’s list of concerns — despite polls that show the economy is tops in general election concerns among all voters, followed by unemployment, the federal budget deficit and the 2010 health care law.

Mr. Gingrich dismisses arguments that a U.S. president hasn’t the tools or power to affect prices at the pump.

“The president of the United States has enormous capacity to enable the increased production of American oil and American gas,” he said. “By deregulation, by opening up the Gulf, by opening up fields in Alaska, by opening up federal lands,” he told an NPR interviewer recently.

He rarely misses an opportunity to knock President Obama’s energy policy, and especially the decision to block the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

On the eve of Super Tuesday’s 10 state primaries and caucuses, Mr. Romney chose Ohio, a must-win state this fall, to make his Gingrich-like pitch.

While Mr. Gingrich is campaigning in other Super Tuesday states, having largely ceded Ohio, Mr. Romney is borrowing the Gingrich energy message — without the specific promise of any particular gasoline price — and pumping the anti-Obama pipeline he wants to run through Ohio.

“President Barack Obama has a different goal: higher prices, lower production and a government-led ‘green’ industry,” Mr. Romney writes in the op-ed. “Ohio is seeing the effects of this approach, as well. The average family’s energy bill has jumped by thousands of dollars during his presidency. Gasoline-price increases, alone, have cost the middle class as much as would doubling the income-tax rate.”

But Mr. Romney, like Mr. Obama, offers a solution funded, at least in part, by the taxpayer: “I will invest in new energy technologies. We must not allow President Obama’s irresponsible and unethical funding of companies such as Solyndra to undermine the Department of Energy’s critical mission of basic research. We can position America to lead on energy in the future without picking winners or stifling the energy sources of today.”

Mr. Gingrich’s campaign has said it will wait until after Super Tuesday to air a 30-second TV in Alabama and Mississippi, which will hold primary elections on March 13, to promote his $2.50 plan.

Mr. Romney is not trying to appropriate and run with Mr. Gingrich’s message, Romney campaign spokesman Andrea Saul told The Washington Times.

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About the Author
Ralph Z. Hallow

Ralph Z. Hallow

Chief political writer Ralph Z. Hallow served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.

 

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