The following is from the Aug. 20, 2008, edition of The Dallas Morning News. Bruce Bullock, director of SMU's Maguire Energy Institute, provided expertise for this story.
By TODD J. GILLMAN
The Dallas Morning News
WASHINGTON – Sen. John McCain flew to an oil rig deep in the Gulf of Mexico to illustrate the case for more drilling Tuesday – setting a new standard for dramatic backdrop as the candidates maneuver for an edge with voters feeling the pinch at the pump.
But gas prices have eased since their all-time peak this summer. And if the trend continues – as analysts expect – energy could subside as the focus of voter discontent, campaign stump speeches and attack ads. It was natural for skyrocketing fuel costs to overtake worries about Iraq, inflation and health care, but this campaign has seen many issues come and go. Candidates couldn't ignore $4 gasoline. But $3.50? And what if prices fall even lower?
"The real risk is we do what we've done for the last 30 years, which is nothing," said Bruce Bullock, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University. "People point to $4 as a tipping point, but $3 is where it got voters' attention."
In February, just 3 percent of Americans surveyed by Gallup cited fuel prices as their top economic concern. By mid-June, that had spiked to one in four. A couple of weeks ago, the number was down to 15 percent.
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