Filling Station Showdown

Allen ties Kaine to unpopular Obama energy agenda in VA Senate fight

Tim Kaine / AP
March 27, 2012

The debate over skyrocketing gas prices and energy policy has become a major issue in one of the nation’s most competitive senate races.

Former Republican Sen. George Allen is slamming former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine over the rising costs of gas using a new campaign website,

The site provides a fill-up calculator that allows Virginians to see how much more expensive a tank of gas has become. The average price of a gallon of gas has increased from $1.85 to $3.87 since Barack Obama assumed office in 2009.

For a Ford F-150, the nation’s most popular vehicle, the cost of filling up has risen to more than $100 per tank.

"In the three years since President Obama took office and Tim Kaine became his Democratic National Committee Chairman, gas prices have skyrocketed," Allen campaign manager Mike Thomas said in a release. "Tim Kaine may say he’s for an ‘all of the above’ approach, but he has repeatedly tried to slow, delay, and block access to more affordable energy."

While some Democrats have distanced themselves from Obama, whose popularity has hovered in the mid-40s over the past year, in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles, Kaine has embraced the president and his policies.

"I will never be one of those Democratic candidates that distances myself from my party or president," he told a crowd of supporters in June 2011. "We got a great track record as a party… Democrats in Congress and the president have done hard things, even things that were unpopular because it was the right thing to do."

Obama’s energy policies are among his least popular initiatives. Roughly two out of every three Americans disapprove of Obama’s handling of gas prices.

The Allen campaign hopes to use the close relationship between Obama and Kaine, who made Obama’s vice presidential shortlist in 2008, as a bludgeon. The criticism stems from Kaine’s steadfast endorsement of the administration’s energy policies, as well as his 2009 support for punitive taxes on coal.

"Tim Kaine stood with President Obama to reject the Keystone Pipeline—and its jobs—and advocated for a cap-and-trade energy tax that would hurt Virginia’s coal industry and raise electricity prices," a top Allen aide said.

Kaine’s energy positions have earned him praise and campaign cash. He has raked in more than $25,000 from environmental groups and green energy companies since declaring his candidacy one year ago.

The Kaine campaign did not return calls for comment.

Allen’s campaign has long focused on energy policy for job creation. Its Blueprint for America’s Comeback—a policy plan to reverse long-term unemployment—centers on three areas, including domestic oil and natural gas production.

Sources inside the campaign say Allen will continue to press Kaine on his unwillingness to break from Obama.

"Our website … is the first sustained push on this issue and you will see more in the coming weeks," one campaign insider said. "Gasoline prices touch every aspect of the economy and as families and business pay near-record high prices at the pump—more than double what they were when President Obama took office and Tim Kaine became his DNC chairman—energy policy will continue to be a major issue."

The presumed candidates are running neck-in-neck in a race that many experts have said could determine the majority in the Senate.