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Disappointed Biden searches for new gas price message as midterm elections loom

President Joe Biden and top administration officials are seeking to downplay the decision from OPEC+ to cut daily oil production by 2 million barrels after steadily decreasing domestic gas prices boosted the president and Democrats’ electoral odds heading into the midterm elections.

The decision comes shortly after Biden traveled to Saudi Arabia, where the president met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and asked Saudi officials to ramp up production as a means of easing global energy prices amid the war in Ukraine.


Publicly, the White House is putting on a strong face in responding to the new cuts.

Biden himself told reporters Thursday that while his trip to Saudi Arabia “was not essentially for oil,” OPEC’s decision still comes as a “disappointment” and he thinks “there are problems” with the cuts.

“We are looking at alternatives,” the president added before departing heading to New York. “We haven’t made up our minds yet.”

National Economic Council Director Brian Deese similarly cautioned reporters that, despite the cuts, domestic gas prices “can and should come down more.”

“The wholesale price, the price that the gas station companies are paying for that gas, notwithstanding the fact that oil prices have come up with it, is still historically low compared to the retail price that they’re charging at the pump,” he continued. “So that’s one place where there is more opportunity.”

“In the very near term, what we believe needs to happen, consistent with market principles, is that the energy companies need to reduce retail prices to reflect the price that they’re paying for the wholesale gas,” Deese explained. “The reason why wholesale gas prices continue to be at that level is because of all of the progress that we’ve made.”

Privately, however, White House officials don’t sound so confident. One senior White House official expressed concerns to the Washington Examiner about Republicans using these cuts as an opportunity to level new gas attacks in the final month before elections.

“This is red meat, and we expect Republicans to try to take advantage,” that person stated. “They’ll try to obscure all of the sweeping economic gains ushered in under President Biden to renew these attacks, even if gas prices don’t actually tick back up again.”

A senior Democratic official predicted that, at this point in the year, voters would be able to look at the strength of the labor market and legislative wins brokered by the administration as evidence the country “is moving in the right direction” but similarly worried about GOP ads “flooding the space” on gas.

“It’s low-hanging fruit, but it’s all they have at this point,” that person concluded.

The White House is reportedly weighing a number of options to counter OPEC’s siding with Russia in the energy war, and Deese reiterated that Biden is keeping everything “on the table.”

Those options include instituting an export ban on American oil, suspending U.S. security support for Saudi Arabia, and supporting the Senate’s so-called NOPEC bill, legislation that revokes sovereign immunity of all OPEC members, including Russia, and allows the Justice Department to target oil companies in those countries for operating as monopolies. The White House previously opposed the bill when it advanced out of committee shortly after the outbreak of war in Europe.

As it stands, Biden and Democrats are polling significantly higher in early October than they were over the summer when gas prices were at their highest. Biden’s approval rating in the RealClearPolitics polling average has jumped nearly 10 points since July, when the average national gas price hovered around $5 per gallon, while generic Democrats are now neck and neck with generic Republicans in most polls.

White House chief of staff Ron Klain touted daily decreases on Twitter, and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre frequently talked about the “work” the Biden administration was doing, both domestically and abroad, to lower gas costs for consumers.

Still, Republicans are adamant that OPEC’s decision, and Biden’s alleged inability to ply foreign countries, will cost Democrats come November.


“Democrats own this mess and will pay for it at the ballot box. Instead of addressing our reliance on foreign oil by producing more here at home, Democrats made it harder for American energy producers,” RNC press secretary Nathan Brand told the Washington Examiner. “Voters know that Biden and the Democrats put their left-wing special interests ahead of the families who can’t afford to fill their cars.”

“I realize costs are going up on food, and I was able to bring gasoline down well over $1.60, but it’s inching up because of what the Russians and the Saudis just did,” Biden said in Maryland on Friday. “I’m not finished with that yet.”

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