Obama goes after Clinton on gas tax

Who would have thought that the gas tax would be a top political issue going into the Indiana primary? Both Democratic campaigns have used the issue to push their narratives: Clinton's that she is a fighter for the working class and Obama's that he represents a new kind of politics. Both have been running ads in Indiana on this policy difference, and Obama has released a new one taking on Clinton directly on her support for John McCain's gas tax holiday proposal.

Watch "Pennies"

Also, today's New York Times has an interesting article entitled "Unlikely Allies Campaign for a Gas-Tax Holiday."

Senators John McCain and Hillary Rodham Clinton found themselves taking a lonely stand on the campaign trail Thursday, defending the proposed gasoline-tax holiday while critics from both parties lined up against it.

Three times, twice unprompted, Mr. McCain, of Arizona, brought up the idea, which Senator Barack Obama's campaign began calling "the McCain-Clinton gas-tax holiday."

Their proposal would suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for the summer travel season.

Mrs. Clinton, campaigning in central and southern Indiana, championed her plan as a boon to commuters, truckers and summer vacationers.

At an event in Jeffersonville, Ind., on Thursday evening, Mrs. Clinton amplified her frequent pledge to introduce legislation to suspend the gas tax, saying she wanted to put members of Congress on the spot on the issue.

"Do they stand with hard-pressed Americans who are trying to pay their gas bills at the gas station or do they once again stand with the big oil companies?" Mrs. Clinton, of New York, said. "That's a vote I'm going to try to get, because I want to know where they stand, and I want them to tell us - are they with us or against us?" (Some Clinton supporters and superdelegates in Congress are among those who oppose a gas tax holiday.)

In Iowa, sounding more exasperated as the day went on, Mr. McCain grimaced slightly when a questioner at a town-hall-style meeting asked him about the plan.

"You'd think that I was attacking Western civilization as we know it," Mr. McCain replied. "The special interests, ‘Oh, my God. This will destroy our transportation system in America. This will have disastrous consequences.' Look, all I think is we ought to give low-income Americans, in particular, a little relief."

Mr. McCain did not say which special interests he meant. But by Thursday afternoon, opposition to the plan was robust and bipartisan, including Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota; Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa; and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California.

Even lawmakers in Mrs. Clinton's backyard, including Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York City (a former Republican, now an independent) and Gov. David A. Paterson, a Democrat, expressed doubts.

"It's about the dumbest thing I've heard in an awful long time from an economic point of view," Mr. Bloomberg told reporters, adding that he did not see "any merit to it whatsoever."

The Wall Street Journal also has an article on the issue today, entitled "Will Voters Accept Obama's Gas Plea?" which points out that Obama's arguments on the issue are not always getting through to voters.

NDN gas tax coverage round up:

  • More on the gas tax - including a quote from Globalization Initiative Chair Dr. Robert Shapiro
  • Ads focus on gas tax
  • Energy Insanity - coverage of Thomas Friedman's column by Green Project Director Michael Moynihan
  • Candidates talk energy policy

UPDATE: Senator Clinton is reportedly introducing legislation today to suspend the gas tax for the summer. With broadbased opposition to the measure, including Speaker Pelosi, this legislation probably is not going anywhere, but Clinton has said that she wants to "get every member of Congress on the record," on this issue. The Obama campaign is arguing that Clinton is overplaying her hand and risks alienating the members of Congress (read: super delegates) she needs to win the nomination.