Analysis: Newt's new strategy (in rhyme)

He went to Alabama with a gas price plan to boot.


After apologies to Stephen Foster, we can add that Newt Gingrich also has taken his plan to Mississippi.

It’s the key to the former Georgia congressman’s bid to revive his presidential campaign. Both states have primaries on Tuesday. Louisiana is soon to come, and Texas’ isn’t far over the horizon.

Will the former U.S. House speaker’s so-called “Southern strategy” work?

The so-called smart money bets it won’t, but maybe you should feel lucky it’s someone else’s money and not yours. It’s bet against him twice and lost.

The action on the third such bet is a work in progress. So far, the polls don’t look so good. Weeks ago, however, they hinted Gingrich might not win last week’s Georgia primary. He did — by a blowout.

But he didn’t win any in other “Super Tuesday” states, so Mississippi and Alabama are “must-win” contests.

Recently, he’s grabbed attention by accusing President Barack Obama of kissing up to Afghan leaders who condone Muslim fanatics who kill Americans.

That’s red meat, especially in the South. But redder still is his dangling of the prospect of $2.50-a-gallon gasoline — as pump prices approach four bucks.

And all the more so near the Gulf, where thousands of jobs are linked to offshore oil drilling.

Gingrich says easing rules Obama has imposed and which prevent increased production will boost gasoline supplies and lower prices.

Not so fast, Newt.

Sure, prices are a matter of supply and demand. So if you make a lot more of something — as he wants to do — it’s a drag on prices. But demand matters, too, and that’s the rub.

Worldwide demand for oil has soared in recent years. And there’s a worldwide market; that is, purchases in China can affect prices in Texas.

So, aside from the additional issue of lagging gasoline refining capacity, experts say pumping more oil won’t get us $2.50 gasoline any time soon. Unless, of course, the world relapses deep into recession.

Gingrich counters that gas became cheaper when supplies rose; skeptics say the market for gas is more regional than global. My guess is they’re both right by half or some substantial fraction.

In any case, Gingrich seems to have a point.

At the very least, producing lots more oil seems likely to ease upward price pressure. Some help beats none. And that, Gingrich takes pains to argue, is what we’re getting from Obama.

Gingrich exaggerates when he claims Obama actually wants to raise prices. It would be less hyperbolic to say he merely wishes he could get away with it. In any case, lowering them apparently isn’t a White House priority.

Indeed, energy secretary Steven Chu conceded as much in his recent congressional testimony and — before joining the administration — even called for higher prices.

So while the $2.50-a-gallon-thang might be iffy economics, it could be pretty good politics, especially given Chu’s statements. And Newt, for course, is a politician, not an economist.

It doesn’t hurt that Obama seems less interested in lower pump prices than in increasing federal subsidies for purchases of Chevy Volts.

You know, those little bitty $40,000 electric cars bought mostly by folks with six-figure incomes.

Right, the ones Newt ridicules as incapable of carrying gun racks.

Pandering, the critics say.

But, hey, I live at the beach.

Newt could say — correctly, I suspect — that they can’t hold surfboard racks. At least not for my 9-4 longboard.

Now, that would be pandering.

If he does, ask me if I’m offended.



Senior reporter Larry Peterson covers politics for the Savannah Morning News. He can be reached at 912-652-0367 or at



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