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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida Republicans try to tap voter anger over gas prices with rally in Tampa



We're all feeling pain at the pump, and the Republican Party of Florida is primed to tap that well of voter anger.

During Friday morning rush hour in New Tampa, RPOF hosted a rally outside a Mobil station on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, a heavily-traveled artery for SUV-driving commuters and carpoolers. The rally was the first of a series of such events planned around the state through the summer.

Art Wood, who lives in Plant City and commutes 21 miles to work in Tampa, held a sign juxtaposing President Barack Obama’s logo and an empty fuel pump.

“It’s clearly the policy of the Democrats to drive up the cost of oil-based products to make alternative energy look cheap,” said Wood, 67. “They’re doing it by choking off supply.”

Other signs declared "Obama Unfit for Unleaded" and "Change at the Pump."

Economists and oil industry experts tend to cite factors far removed from those used in political ads -- oil demand in China, for instance, and the strength of the dollar have greater impact on gas prices than any single president's policies.

But high gas prices are visible and tangible, which makes for a great campaign issue. Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry, who came to the rally to greet demonstrators, called it a pocketbook issue that Obama has not addressed.

"He's the president," Curry said. "It's his job to solve these problems."

The Florida Democratic Party sees it differently. This is from David Bergstein, the party spokesman: "The president has aggressively pursued an all-of-the-above energy strategy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Since President Obama took office, domestic oil production has reached an 8-year high and our dependence on foreign oil has fallen to a 16-year low. We have made historic investments in renewable energy, reduction of energy waste, and the research and development of clean coal technology, all while Republicans fight to keep subsidies for big oil and gas companies and criticize fuel economy standards that would save families money at the pump."

-- Molly Moorhead, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Friday, April 27, 2012 4:49pm]


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