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Soaring Gas Prices Threaten Obama Re-Election

Gasoline priced at $5.89 for regular is advertised at a U.S. Shell station, Monday, Feb. 27, 2012, in Orlando, Florida.

2012 is a presidential election year in the United States, and so far, much of the focus has been on the lengthy and divisive race for the Republican Party nomination between former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum. But President Obama has plenty of challenges of his own as he prepares for a re-election contest in November.

Mitt Romney leads the Republican race over Rick Santorum and would like to shift his focus to President Obama as soon as possible. “He said if he couldn’t turn it around in three years that he would be looking at a one term proposition. We are here to collect, alright? We are here to collect," he said.

The Republican race has turned into a drawn-out slog for delegates and is likely to go on indefinitely, something experts say should help the president.

But rising gas prices in the U.S. are driving down Mr. Obama’s approval ratings and pose a major challenge for his re-election.

Outside the White House, tourists from around the country worry about soaring prices but differ on who is to blame.

“They are a little high right now being that I drove all the way up here, so it’s hit me in the pocketbook a little bit," said one man.

“But I would think as president there is something he can do. I mean there has got to be something he can do to help with the gas," said another man.

President Obama says Republicans are using the gas issue to launch political attacks. “There is no silver bullet and anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t really looking for a solution. They are probably just looking to ride the political wave of the moment," he said.

The negative tone of the Republican primary battle could work to Mr. Obama’s advantage, says Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown.

“It probably helps the president that Gingrich and Romney and now Santorum and Romney have spent a lot of time buying television commercials that are unflattering about their opponents," he said.

But it is still a long way until November, says Henry Olsen of the American Enterprise Institute.

“Obama is in the stage where it is plausible to think of his re-election, but it’s not certain to be guaranteeing his re-election. Obama should be feeling happy, but he should not be feeling cocky," he said.

Recent polls show Mr. Obama easily defeating Rick Santorum if he becomes the Republican nominee but a much closer race if Mitt Romney is the Republican candidate in November.

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    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.