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Barack Obama, on his birthday, has energy on his mind

August 4, 2008 | 10:12 am

Pander-alert!

"There is no place I'd rather be on my birthday than Lansing, Mich.," Barack Obama said today, as he celebrated turning 47 by stumping in a state that seems essential to his White House hopes.

Obama His audience in Michigan's capital city no doubt was savvy enough not to believe him (and he uttered the remark with a slight, knowing smile on his face), but the line elicited the expected cheer.

Obama used his campaign stop to summarize in one speech his energy policy, bits and pieces of which he's spotlighted in recent appearances. His proposals, as recapped by the Boston Globe, include a $1,000 rebate check from the government to help Americans defray escalating energy costs and a goal of ending U.S. dependence on Middle East oil in a decade.

He also touched upon his latest move to the middle -- his support for ending the federal ban on offshore oil drilling (though only in limited fashion and with strict attention to avoiding environmental damage).

In another position shift, he also called for tapping a portion of the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to provide a quick cut in gasoline prices (The Times' has the details here, and Obama's prepared remarks can be read here).

His campaign coupled his appearance with the release of a new ad bashing John McCain for support the Republican has received from the oil industry. As our friend Mark Silva writes about at the Swamp, the spot links McCain with President Bush with imagery and this payoff line: "After one president in the pocket of Big Oil, we can't afford another.''

As the Swamp item notes, the Republican National Committee -- ever dismissive of all things Obama -- responded to both his birthday and his focus on the energy issue by sending out to selected media members (not us, as of yet) complimentary tire gauges. The reason -- last week Obama mentioned "making sure your tires are properly inflated" as one "small step" Americans could take to improve their vehicles' gas mileage.

And just moments ago, the McCain campaign unveiled a fundraising push wrapped around the tire gauge gimmick. For $25, campaign manager Rick Davis said in an e-mail, contributors will receive a gauge so that they could put Obama's "energy policy to the test."

The e-mail asks (skeptically, of course): "Will simply inflating your tires reduce the financial burden of high gas prices on your wallet?"

-- Don Frederick

Photo credit: Getty Images