MELISSA BLOCK, host:
President Obama in his speech yesterday also talked about the price of gas. In some parts of the country, it's over $4 a gallon.
Republicans who may challenge the president in next year's election see an opportunity there, as NPR's Jeff Brady reports.
JEFF BRADY: Show up in Iowa just before an election year, take a few swipes at the current Democratic president, and we can safely assume you're at least thinking about running for the Republican nomination.
Last week, the Conservative Principles PAC Conference was held in Des Moines. Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann began her speech talking about energy.
Representative MICHELE BACHMANN (Republican, Minnesota): Let's take a look: $1.83. That is the price that gasoline was the day before Barack Obama took office as president of the United States. Is it time for a change?
Unidentified Group: Yeah.
BRADY: Bachmann draws a direct connection between the number of new drilling permits issued in the Gulf of Mexico under President Obama's watch and the current price of gasoline. The woman who made the phrase drill, baby, drill popular does the same thing. A recent Facebook post by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is titled "The $4 Per Gallon President."
Oil market analysts say recent price hikes have more to do with turmoil in the Middle East than administration policies. Still, much of what potential GOP candidates have to say about energy deals with supply.
Here's Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour at that same conference.
Governor HALEY BARBOUR (Republican, Mississippi): We need more oil. We need more gas. We need more coal. We need more nuclear. We need more American energy. And that...
(Soundbite of applause)
BRADY: And that is pretty much the message you'll get from the oil industry. No wonder, just look at where oil companies spend their campaign contributions. Republicans are the beneficiaries over Democrats by a 3-to-1 margin, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also has been making appearances on the potential candidate speaking circuit. Here he was last month at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.
Mr. NEWT GINGRICH (Former Republican Representative, Georgia): What you have from the Obama administration is a war against American energy. They just can't help themselves. Even in the State of the Union, at a time when we're facing rising oil prices, what does the president want to do? He wants to raise taxes on oil and gas.
BRADY: Gingrich uses the word taxes loosely. The Obama administration has proposed increasing fees for the oil industry and getting rid of some tax deductions.
There is another potential candidate who would like to say to President Obama...
(Soundbite of TV show, "The Apprentice")
Mr. DONALD TRUMP (Chairman and CEO, Trump Organization): You're fired.
BRADY: Donald Trump was on Fox News a couple of weeks back commenting on stiff new safety and environmental rules the Obama administration put in place after the Deepwater Horizon accident.
Mr. TRUMP: I think it's beyond anything I've ever seen, that we go slow on drilling. And there are always going to be problems. You're going to have an oil spill. You're going to have this. You clean it up, and you'll fix it up, and it'll be fine.
BRADY: Beyond the Donald, there is another potential Republican candidate we haven't heard from yet, and some consider him the frontrunner. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has made plenty of speeches, but he hasn't tied high gasoline prices to President Obama as aggressively as the others.
As gas prices rise further, though, you can bet most of the potential Republican candidates will try their best to link the two in voters' minds.
Jeff Brady, NPR News.
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