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Trump's cheap summer win: gas prices

Gasoline prices heading into Memorial Day weekend — the start of the summer driving season — are fairly modest by historical standards and lower than last year's levels.

Why it matters: It's a break for people who need or choose to drive long distances. That's also good news for President Trump. Energy prices are politically ominous for presidents when they're high.

  • This isn't lost on Trump, who tried to take credit for gasoline prices when they were falling early in the year and in general likes to highlight the topic.
  • He also makes a public show of leaning on OPEC.

But, but, but: U.S. presidents have limited and indirect influence on pump prices. Instead, they're most directly tethered to oil prices set on global markets that respond to all kinds of global economic and geopolitical forces.

  • Most recently, trade disputes are putting downward pressure on prices.
  • Overall, the White House faces a tricky balancing act as it toughens sanctions against Iranian exports while trying to avoid political blowback over how that could put upward pressure on crude prices.

Where it stands: Gasoline prices have been rising for much of the year but dipped in recent weeks. Per AAA, the nationwide average price is $2.85 per gallon for regular gasoline today, roughly 12 cents below last year at this time. AAA says...

"For the 37.6 million motorists hitting the road for Memorial Day they can expect gas prices to be cheaper than last year with the exception of a few states in the West Coast and Rockies region."

Go deeper: The states with the most expensive gas prices