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Barack Obama's energy speech draws attention -- to his changing stances

August 5, 2008 |  8:01 pm

Barack Obama surrogates fanned out on various TV interview shows today to discuss the dominant issue of the moment -- energy -- and to press the case that their candidate rose to the occasion Monday in layingPresumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama surveys the audience during a town hall style campaign stop in Ohio out a comprehensive policy in a high-profile speech in Michigan.

We have to wonder, though, if the much-vaunted Obama campaign team anticipated that print coverage would focus so heavily on his latest change of position in the energy debate -- his support for tapping the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserves to drive down the cost of gasoline.

Here were the leads from the big three dailies:

"With the politics of energy shifting as rapidly as gasoline prices, Democrats, led by presidential candidate Barack Obama, are retreating from long-held positions and scrambling to offer distressed voters more immediate relief from spiraling costs." (Los Angeles Times)

"Sen. Barack Obama altered his position on Monday to call for tapping the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve to lower gasoline prices as he outlined an energy plan that contrasts with Sen. John McCain’s greater emphasis on expanded offshore drilling and coal and nuclear technology." (New York Times)

"Sen. Barack Obama called Monday for using oil from the nation's strategic reserves to lower gasoline prices, the second time in less than a week that he has modified a position on energy issues, as he and Sen. John McCain seek to find solutions to a topic that is increasingly dominating the presidential race." (Washington Post)

The first-day Associated Press story by Tom Raum, which no doubt was widely used by medium-sized and smaller newspapers, quickly drew attention to both Obama's shift on the petroleum reserves and his surprise support late last week for a compromise that would ease the long-standing federal ban on offshore oil drilling.

Obama's new proposal, Raum wrote, "includes two significant reversals ...

... of positions he has taken in the past: He had steadfastly fought the idea of limited new offshore drilling and was against tapping the nation's emergency oil stockpile to relieve pump prices that have stubbornly hovered around $4 a gallon."

In terms of opinion pieces on Obama's plan, his aides won't bat an eye at a bashing from the conservative New York Post, which began an editorial today: "One more week, one more Barack Obama reversal on a key issue. Actually, make that two reversals."

But Obama aides may have noticed -- and become concerned about -- the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial take: "Sen. Barack Obama's energy policy is offering more flip-flops than a Lake Tahoe souvenir stand."

That's not quite the narrative the Obama camp was looking for from his speech.

-- Don Frederick

Photo credit: Associated Press

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