The following editorial appears in the Dallas Morning News:
Political strategists predicted that stubbornly soaring gasoline prices would translate into a slam-dunk for Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates this election year. But with $4-a-gallon gasoline eating away at paychecks, a potential Republican liability may be emerging as an unlikely strength.
For the first time, Obama indicated last week that he would accept more offshore drilling if Congress could reach a broader bipartisan energy compromise. By Monday, as he attempted to refocus his campaign on specific issues, Obama unveiled a grocery list of energy initiatives, including support for tapping the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Both Obama and John McCain have seen the public opinion polls showing that energy has supplanted Iraq in the American psyche. Obama is sensing that he would end up on the wrong side of public opinion if he persisted in opposing increasingly popular, though not necessarily effective, energy proposals.
Meanwhile, Obama's energy equivocation gives McCain an unexpected opportunity to reframe the energy debate in populist, pragmatic pocketbook terms that resonate with cash-drained voters.
With more voters siding with McCain about the need for offshore drilling, Obama and Democrats such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can't just say no and have that pass for an energy policy.
The respected Quinnipiac University poll, for example, recently found that either a majority or plurality of those asked in seven key battleground states favored opening up previously protected areas offshore and in Alaska for exploration. The electoral and political math is simple the loser in these states won't be sitting in the White House in January, which is why both candidates are suddenly on the same side of the offshore drilling issue.
The irony is that neither initiative breaks America's energy addiction. And both of these "fixes" are as theatrical as the couple dozen Republicans who mounted a floor protest of Pelosi's refusal to allow a vote on opening new areas to drilling after Congress had adjourned for a five-week vacation.
The energy debate deserves better than political posturing from all camps. And right now, that's all that is going on.