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Attacking Obama on gas prices is ‘baloney,’ says Dem governor

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Obama has made more strides on energy in his first term in office than President George W. Bush did in two, Democrats argued Tuesday.

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana both said that Obama’s administration had made strides in implementing an “all of the above” approach to energy, with emphasis on both oil exploration and renewable sources.

“They actually do it, and don’t just talk about it,” Schweitzer said of Democrats.

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The Montana governor said the United States has quadrupled its number of drilling rigs, which he said had led to increased domestic production and less of a need for imports.

“I’m tired of hearing all their baloney about Obama doubled the price of gasoline,” Schweitzer said about Republicans. “Big damn lie.”

Republicans have tried to turn the rising price of gas into a political liability for Obama, noting that the cost at the pump has more than doubled since he took office in early 2009.

Begich acknowledged divisions among Democrats on energy policy and said he isn’t sure that Obama’s message and record on energy is breaking through to voters.

“I think there is a kind of mixed view out there on him,” Begich told reporters after a Washington Post policy event on energy.

“I think people get caught into the cap and trade, climate change, oil and gas taxes,” he added, pointing to some of the touchier subjects in the energy debate. “But if you step back and say, what’s happened overall and look at the big picture — it’s moved a lot.”

Recent polls indicate that voters believe Obama would do a better job on energy policy than his rival, Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

And while the economy and other fiscal issues are expected to take center stage for the campaign’s final two months, Obama has also plugged his energy efforts, including on a four-state swing earlier this year.

Republicans in Washington have ripped Obama over delays in the Keystone oil sands pipeline, and Romney — who has promised he would bring the nation energy independence by 2020 — has tried to make hay over rising gas and energy prices. 

Still, Schweitzer also acknowledged after Tuesday’s event that voters might not be picking up on that message. But he also blamed that more on Washington gridlock than anything else, and declined to say whether Obama could be making his case more forcefully.

“I’m not going to give advice to the best communicator in the history of this country about how he talks about things,” Schweitzer said.