Gasoline prices shot up more than 50 cents in the span of a month in Indiana, Vermont, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Wisconsin. And California drivers have seen gas climb 13 cents since the fire Monday. Motorists in many cities there are paying well over $4.
Drivers in 20 states, including the possible White House battleground states of Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin, are paying more for gasoline this year than they did last year, and the list will probably soon include Virginia and North Carolina, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service. The national average a year ago was $3.64.
"If you are paying more than in the past, it does have the potential to hurt the president," Kloza said.
Economists said the price bump probably won't have much of an effect on economic growth, at least not yet. The extra 34 cents a gallon translates to $33 per month for a typical household.
Prices could go higher if Middle East tensions rise, more refinery problems emerge or hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico force oil drillers or refiners to shut down. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this week said this could be a more active hurricane season than previously thought.
But analysts say that without those disruptions, gasoline will probably begin dropping after Labor Day as refiners switch to cheaper blends and drivers hit the road less often. That means voters could be going to the polls as prices are falling.