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Republican National Committee Uses #ObamaonEmpty To Fuel Attacks On Obama's Energy Policy

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Thursday, March 15 2012

Republicans accelerated their rhetorical assaults against President Obama on Thursday, hitting him hard in speeches and online over gas prices as those prices rise, and Obama’s poll numbers go down.

The Republican National Committee has been stoking the conversation in the past couple of days by asking people on Twitter to share photographs of their gas bills when filling up at the pump.

“Keep sending us your #ObamaonEmpty photos – how much are you paying at your local station? Tweet us and we’ll RT and follow you back,” a note sent out by the RNC account read Thursday.

So far, the campaign doesn’t seem to have elicited a huge response, with a few responses trickling in from Macon, Georgia ($4.99 a gallon) Raleigh, North Carolina ($3.91 a gallon,) and San Francisco ($4.59 a gallon.) and elsewhere. R.C. Mahoney, a regional press secretary for the RNC, noted on Twitter that the “cost of regular gas across the street from @BarackObama’s energy speech today” was $4.44.

Average gas prices for regular gas have inched up in the past year to $3.80 from $3.54 a gallon a year ago, according to the web site Gasbuddy.com, a popular site that helps people find the cheapest gas prices in their vicinity.

As The Washington Post points out, voters are blaming the president for the rise in prices, even if their logic is flawed. So the Republicans are pushing that topic of conversation on the campaign trail, on television and online.

For his part, Mitt Romney blamed Obama’s policies of restricting drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and blocking the development of the Keystone pipeline as examples of Obama’s flawed approach to energy policy. But his campaign hasn’t been as active online as his GOP competitors in pushing the energy theme.

Perhaps he’s leaving it up to the RNC, which was sending out links to attack videos and speeches by other members of the party criticizing Obama for his policies. The RNC amplified Obama’s phrase “no silver bullets” on gas prices with an online attack ad on Wednesday, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindahl responded to Obama’s energy speech on Thursday by saying that “we as a country should certainly at least be firing all the bullets we do have.”

Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich’s campaign promoted a 30-minute YouTube video of a campaign stop speech the candidate made in Schaumberg, Illinois on Wednesday, where he charged that Obama wasn’t doing enough to capitalize on the potential of natural gas.

Rick Santorum, for his part, left it up to the Red, White and Blue Fund, a SuperPAC supporting him, to pound away at Obama over his energy policy. The SuperPAC recently came up with a new television ad and YouTube video ad accusing Obama of keeping the United States dependent on oil imports.

As National Journal pointed out, President Obama has tried to address Americans’ concerns over gas prices by giving three speeches on energy within the space of two weeks. Online, his campaign released an infographic that tried to summarize in an easy-to-digest manner the realities of what’s been happening to oil and gas production under his watch. (The graphics show domestic oil production going up and oil imports declining, to counter the Republicans’ criticisms.)

And his campaign on Thursday tweeted out links to a slickly-produced web page with charts and a YouTube video describing his “all of the above” approach to energy policy, which again, attempts to counter the Republicans’ effort to paint the president as someone who’s not pulling out all the stops to lower energy prices.

But for the most part, the official Obama campaign Twitter account seemed to be ignoring the RNC's ongoing attacks on their candidate over energy policy and gas prices, and the Democratic National Committee just tweeted out just one link to one policy post about gas prices on Tuesday.

It was Obama himself who countered the criticisms leveled against his energy policies on Thursday. And oddly, he picked on Gingrich, even though the former Speaker of the House is lagging behind Romney and Santorum in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

"They head down to the gas station; they make sure a few cameras are following them, and then they start acting like we've got a magic wand and we will give you cheap gas forever if you just elect us," the president said in his speech at Prince George's Community College in Largo, Maryland on Thursday. "Been the same script for 30 years. It's like a bad rerun."