Bloomberg News

Obama Returns to Florida for Campaign Cash, Speech on Energy

February 27, 2012

Feb. 23 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama is promoting his administration’s energy and economic policies in response to Republican criticism over rising gasoline prices and raising campaign money in the battleground state of Florida today.

Obama, in an event at the University of Miami, will discuss the pressure rising fuel costs put on household budgets and push his “all-of-the-above approach” to cutting U.S. dependence on foreign oil, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

“He’s very aware of the impact that it has and fully understands the anxiety it creates,” Carney said yesterday. The administration’s strategy is to increase domestic production of oil and gas, spur development of alternative energy sources and cut consumption by raising vehicle fuel efficiency, he said.

The rising cost of gasoline threatens to crimp consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the U.S. economy, at a time the recovery is gaining strength. Economic concerns will be the top issue in the November election and the Republican presidential candidates have opened a fresh round of criticism of Obama’s energy policies.

The average price for regular gasoline at the pump has risen to the highest ever for this time of year, at $3.58 a gallon yesterday, according to AAA data. The average price is 10 cents higher in Florida, a swing state targeted by both parties in the presidential election. Today marks Obama’s 14th visit to Florida since becoming president.

Obama Tax Plan

Yesterday, the Obama administration released a plan to revamp the tax code that would reduce the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 35 percent and keep incentives for renewable energy while eliminating some tax breaks for the oil and gas industries.

The Florida trip follows Congress’s extension of the payroll-tax cut through year’s end, an annual boost of $1,000 for a typical American family. Obama, who signed the tax cut extension last night, has said it can help offset energy bills and other costs.

The White House, in a Feb. 20 statement, said Obama would be in Florida to talk about his “blueprint for an economy built to last.” Since then Republicans have focused their attention on energy costs and Obama’s policies.

At a rally yesterday in Tucson, Arizona, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Obama has contributed to higher energy costs by raising environmental concerns for political purposes.

‘Horror Scenarios’

“Their scary horror scenarios of the past of how they’ve been able to raise money and get votes by scaring the American public about the environment have turned out to be hoaxes,” Santorum said.

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich yesterday asked the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether the Justice Department “is deliberately abusing its authority to harass” oil and gas companies.

Obama is coming under pressure from some congressional Democrats as well. Representatives Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Peter Welch of Vermont and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut urged Obama to release crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to stem rising gasoline prices.

Obama also is using his Florida visit to attend three fundraisers, two in the Miami area and one in the Orlando area at the home of Dallas Mavericks basketball star Vince Carter, according to a Democratic National Committee official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the events on the record.

Holding Fundraisers

The Miami-area events include a reception for 450 people at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, with tickets ranging from $1,000-5,000 and some $500 tickets for younger voters.

A fundraiser at the home of lawyer and real estate developer Chris Korge, with tickets ranging from $15,000- $30,000, was expected to draw 100 supports, the DNC official said.

The event at Carter’s home in Windermere, Florida, was to draw 70 supporters with tickets at $30,000.

Obama will tour a center at the University of Miami where students learn about reducing energy costs for small and mid- sized manufacturers, one of 24 such centers that are part of the Department of Energy’s Industrial Assessment Program, according to the White House.

Florida is a major prize in the presidential election, with 29 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House and a recent history of swinging between the Democratic and Republican candidates. Obama won the state in 2008 while Republican George W. Bush won in 2000 and 2004.

Obama last visited Florida on Jan. 19 when he held an event at Walt Disney World theme park to promote tourism and speeding the approval of non-immigrant visas.

--With assistance from Hans Nichols, Julianna Goldman, Katarzyna Klimasinska and Richard Rubin in Washington and Julie Hirschfeld Davis in Tucson, Arizona. Editors: Joe Sobczyk, Jim Rubin.

To contact the reporter on this story: Margaret Talev in Washington at mtalev@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net


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