Even though "Drill, Baby, Drill!" has utterly failed to lower oil prices, Republicans are still using Americans' pain at the pump as a political weapon. Even though speculators are currently involved in over %60 of ALL oil futures contracts, the facts don't really matter to these people:
President Obama inherited an economy in free fall and in the intervening years, he has made a lot of progress towards improving the leading indicators. However, the fact that oil demand has recovered a great deal AND turmoil such as the continuing Arab Spring have conspired to raise the price of oil a great deal does not stop Republicans from blaming the President for rising gas prices. However, there might be something more sinister going on with oil prices and I'll explain what I've found past the break.
Here's an image I made with election dates overlaid on oil prices since the late 1980s:
(Click to see the whole image)
Red lines are presidential or midterm elections where Republicans were considered the "incumbent" party while blue lines signify the same for Democrats. The dates are approximate since I was messing with images and not actual data. However, a certain trend becomes clear: with few exceptions, when Republicans are "incumbents", prices fall in the months before the election and when Democrats are the "incumbents", prices tend to rise.
Some of the price moves, especially falling prices that would seem to help Republicans, are just a few dollars per barrel. Some of the spikes and dips coincide with international crises like the Gulf War and the 2008 Market Meltdown. However, remember the dip a few months before the election in 2006? That was caused in part by the announcement of the "Jack 2" test well in the deep Gulf of Mexico that supposedly had billions upon billions of barrels of oil, but has produced hardly any commercial barrels to this day. Many of these moves up or down accompany changes in gas prices that are positively correlated with oil prices and changes in stock market indices which are mostly negatively correlated with oil prices. So in essence, favorable economic indicators somehow manage to edge slightly higher in Republican "incumbent" years and unfavorable economic indicators take over in Democratic "incumbent" years.
Correlation does not prove causation, but I'll make some testable predictions anyway. Since, as mentioned before, speculators make up over %60 of the contracts on oil futures markets, and since many of those speculators work for Republican allies like Exxon and Goldman Sachs, we'll see a continued rise in oil prices throughout the year. Expect spikes when Obama has some momentum or when Romney makes another gaffe. An international incident like Israel attacking Iran would throw my analysis off, but it would be EVEN BETTER for Republicans anyway in an incumbent Dem year. I wouldn't even put it past the Super PACS to somehow coordinate ad campaigns with spikes in the oil market either. We'll see what happens over the next few months, though.