Clinton Says She's "Unapologetic" Over Gas Tax Proposal

(CBS)
From CBS News' Fernando Suarez:

SOUTH BEND, IND. -- In the face of growing criticism from economists and some in her party, Hillary Clinton said she will not give up in her pursuit to temporarily eliminate the federal gas tax for the summer.

"I am unabashed! I am unapologetic! I am going to fight for the middle class and I am going to take on the oil companies and everybody else who's had it their way for way too long!" Clinton told a dismal crowd at an outdoor rally here.

The federal gas tax holiday, first proposed by John McCain, has become a heated issue in the campaign. The plan would shelve the tax on gas from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend, a traditionally high travel time for Americans. Barack Obama does not favor the plan, which has created an opening for Clinton to criticize him - and vice versa - in these crucial final 48 hours before the primaries in Indiana and North Carolina.

"My opponent says, you know, 'that's a gimmick' he doesn't want to take on the oil companies to make them pay the gas tax, he'd rather you do it, but he attacks me because he doesn't have any plan for immediate relief," Clinton said to applause.

With so many Americans feeling the pinch at the pump - with the average cost of gas topping $3.60 per gallon - it is no surprise that, politically, supporting the gas-tax holiday is highly popular among voters despite arguments form economists who say the overall savings will not be worth the potential loss in revenue from shelving the tax over the summer.

Clinton will continue to push the gas tax issue between now and Tuesday's primaries and it could potentially open the door for Clinton to continue to try to paint her opponent as an elitist liberal who is out of touch with the everyday needs of middle-class Americans.

Obama has said that the gas tax will save Americans "just pennies" but Clinton argues that the savings over the summer amounts to real money to many hardworking families.