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Obama whacks Republicans on gas price rhetoric

March 15, 2012: 1:57 PM ET

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Obama defended his energy policy on Thursday, and at the same time called out Republicans for promising lower gas prices while allegedly ignoring alternative sources of energy.

Without mentioning any of the candidates by name, Obama went so far as to suggest that the Republicans seeking the presidency are the kind of people who might deny that Earth is a sphere.

"A lot of the folks who are running for a certain office, who shall go unnamed, they've been talking down new sources of energy," Obama said. "If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society. They would not have believed that the world was round."

The president hit Newt Gingrich particularly hard -- poking fun at his very specific promise to lower prices at the pump to $2.50.

"Every time prices start to go up, especially in an election year, politicians dust off their three point plans for $2 gas," Obama said. "I guess this year they decided we're going to make it $2.50."

"They head down to the gas station. They make sure a few cameras are following them. And then they start acting like we've got a magic wand, and we will give you cheap gas forever -- if you just elect us. Every time. Been the same script for 30 years. It's like a bad re-run," he said.

Gingrich has made lower gas prices a centerpiece of his campaign in recent weeks. He has held photo-ops at gas stations, and frequently mentions his plan for $2.50 gas. The promise is even featured prominently on his campaign website, where visitors are met with a fundraising plea: "Help bring gas prices down to $2.50. Contribute $2.50 or more today in support of $2.50 gas under a Gingrich presidency."

Most oil analysts back Obama on this one. They say there is little that politicians can do to lower prices in the short-term.

When asked specifically about his Republican challengers, Obama had thus far declined to issue specific attacks -- and he has seldom mentioned candidates by name.

But on Thursday, there was no doubt that the gloves are off.

Later today, the White House is expected to unleash Vice President Joe Biden on the Republican contenders during a speech at the United Auto Workers Local 12 Hall in Toledo, Ohio. Biden is expected to mention the Republican candidates by name in a change of strategy.

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About This Author
Charles Riley
Charles Riley
Reporter, CNNMoney

Charles Riley lives and works in Hong Kong, where he covers markets, economics and other high-impact stories across Asia. He previously worked for CNNMoney in New York and CNN in Washington. He tweets @CRrileyCNN

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