President Obama knows the rising price of gasoline — averaging $3.92 per gallon nationwide for regular unleaded — is a huge vulnerability. It prompted his recent energy tour and a White House press conference yesterday.
It also explains why the Democratic National Committee reacted so franticly to a new 30-second ad called “Nine Dollar Gas” from the American Energy Alliance. The group is spending $3.6 million to air the spot in eight states: Florida, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio and Virginia.
Shortly after the American Energy Alliance announced plans to run the ad starting Friday, the DNC dispatched Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to disparage the organization and launch a personal attack on its president. (Here’s the audio of the DNC press call.)
“The American Energy Alliance is a front group for Big Oil, plain and simple. It is an offshoot of the Institute for Energy Research, which is funded by the Koch brothers and other Big Oil companies. The President of the American Energy Alliance is a former Koch Lobbyist. There is no daylight between the Koch Brothers and the American Energy Alliance, only millions of dollars in Big Oil cash.”
That was enough for POLITICO to declare: “Kochs linked to $3.6M anti-Obama gas price ad.” The shock and horror!
Unfortunately for Wasserman Schultz and POLITICO, it’s not accurate. ”This ad was not funded by the Koch organizations,” spokesman Benjamin Cole told CBS News. “It is a lie to suggest otherwise.”
That didn’t dissuade the DNC from releasing its own ad criticizing the American Energy Alliance, an attack-the-messenger strategy that mirrors the Obama campaign’s recent ad trashing Americans for Prosperity.
But while Wasserman Schultz and the DNC were busy attacking the organization and attempting to tie Mitt Romney to the group, they failed to rebut the facts presented in the ad. The American Energy Alliance released a two-page fact sheet backing up each statement featured in its commercial.
Among the charges against Obama: gas prices have doubled during his presidency, he opposed drilling in ANWR, channeled taxpayer dollars to politically connected Solyndra, rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, and picked an energy secretary who supports European prices for gasoline (topping $9 in some countries).
Even before the ad hits the airwaves today, there’s already an indication that the DNC’s aggressive attack on the American Energy Alliance could backfire. The group is getting more attention and media coverage because of Wasserman Schultz’s criticism than it would have otherwise. That could very well mobilize more donors who are frustrated with Obama’s energy policies.