Mitt Romney: Fire Obama's 'Gas Hike Trio'

Lindsey Boerma

COLLINSVILLE, Ill. – Mitt Romney is calling on President Obama to fire his administration’s “gas hike trio,” three top Cabinet members whom Romney accuses of being hired to help “skyrocket” gasoline prices.

Obama has mocked the idea that he wants gas prices to rise, saying at a news conference earlier this month: "Do you think the president of the United States, going into re-election, wants higher gas prices?”

But Romney said on Saturday that Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson were intended to help implement then-candidate Obama’s strategy to make “energy prices go up a lot.” 

But now that “the president has endured what we might call an election-year conversion” and wants to lower energy costs, Romney continued at a town hall meeting here, “I think it’s time for him to fire his gas-hike trio.”

Another option, the former Massachusetts governor suggested, is for the three officials to quit.

“They really ought to turn in their resignations,” he told the crowd of over 300 at the Gateway Center. “They were hired to raise the cost of gasoline, now the president says he wants to lower it. Given that’s the new direction, their expertise is not in lowering the price of gasoline; their expertise is in raising it. So if I were them I’d simply turn in my resignation. That’s what they should do, and if they don’t he should fire them.”

The attack signals a choice by Romney to go after what could be an enormous liability for Obama in the general election: pain at the pump. But heading into Tuesday’s GOP primary in Illinois, which could play kingmaker following a messy election season marked by an increasingly split delegate count, Romney also set his sights on reassuring a Republican base wondering why he can’t lock up the nomination. 

“There are four people running for president in our party right now,” Romney said. “I will support whoever our nominee is. I happen to believe I’m the guy with by far the best chance of beating [Obama]. And you know, we got behind John McCain last time -- he lost 19 states in the primary process. But when the process was over, we got behind him, we worked for him, the various candidates did, we helped his effort, the party came together.”

Taking questions from the crowd, Romney faced one critic eager to swipe at his Achilles heel. Asked about having “$50 million invested in Goldman Sachs,” Romney argued that he didn’t have investments “anywhere near the nature you’re speaking of.”

"And I can assure you, I am not in this race to make money; I’ve already made enough,” he continued. “I’ve worked for the last 10 years … without taking a salary. I’m not embarrassed about being successful, but I’m embarrassed for people who think there’s something wrong with that.”