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Gas prices are soaring around the U.S., and political battleground states are no exception. Six states at the center of this fall’s midterm elections now pay over $4 a gallon for gas, according to the latest data from the American Automobile Association (AAA).
AAA recently surveyed over 1,000 adults and found 59% of respondents said a price of $4 a gallon would prompt them to change their driving or lifestyle behaviors. The high prices will “without a doubt” change consumer behavior generally, AAA Northeast Public Affairs Senior Manager Robert Sinclair Jr. recently told Yahoo Finance. While he says prices are leveling off, he doesn’t see significant relief coming soon.
“They rise like a rocket and fall like a feather,” he said.
Republicans have repeatedly blamed Democrats for high prices. The relentless gas price hikes could boost conservatives as they try to gain control of both chambers of Congress and state houses around the U.S.
As of March 16, gas prices ranged from an average of $3.81 in Kansas to $5.77 in California. It averages out to about $4.30 across the country. Prices at the pump have not yet fallen alongside the price of crude oil, which has seen a price collapse in recent days to below $100 a barrel.
7 states in focus
Six states that have competitive races underway for both senate and governor: Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. In Nevada, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is running for re-election as one of the nation’s most vulnerable Democrats in a state where the average price of gas just crossed $5 a gallon. Sen. Mark Kelly is in a similar position in Arizona, with his potential voters paying $4.62 at the pump.
Both senators back a bill to temporarily suspend the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon. They’re being joined by a slate of Democratic Senators facing high prices and tough re-election fights such as Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA). The push comes as states move to roll back their gas taxes and the White House considers going along at the national level.
California has the highest gas prices in the nation at $5.77 a gallon. While statewide races there aren’t expected to be competitive this fall, a host of key Congressional races could go either way.
Wider inflation concerns
Inflation in general is also affecting other key midterm contests. Axios recently calculated how urban areas in Georgia and Florida — which still have slightly below average costs compared to the national average — have topped the nation in inflation rate recently. That means voters there feel the whiplash of higher prices most directly.
Newly released February data from key regions like the Atlanta area, the Phoenix area, the Philadelphia area, and more show how some of the steepest price hikes in the country hit voters who will choose between the Democratic and Republican candidate in just a few months.
The Atlanta area, for example, has seen prices spike 10.6% over the past 12 months, well above the national inflation rate of 7.9%. Georgia has a key Senate race and a key governor’s race, both of which the Cook Political Report rates a toss-up.
Recent inflation data only runs through the end of February, meaning it shows only some of the impacts from the Russia-Ukraine crisis. A further jump in energy prices will likely to show up in March’s numbers. The war is now in its third week after Russian forces began their invasion on Feb. 24.