There are many theories out there as to why gasoline prices have fallen below $2 a gallon in Oklahoma and way below $3 throughout the nation: Easing tensions in the Middle East. A new oil pool find in the ocean. A repaired pipeline in Alaska. The end of the summer travel season. More supply than demand.

But the biggest factor weighing on gas buyers' minds is the upcoming mid-term federal elections, according to a national survey. About half of those surveyed said the November elections are having more impact than market forces. It's not a coincidence, the respondents said.

The Gallup poll, reported by the Associated Press this week, found that 42 percent of those responding agreed with the statement, "the Bush administration deliberately manipulated the price of gasoline so that it would decrease before this fall's elections." Two-thirds of those who suspect that conspiracy are registered Democrats, according to the poll.

The price plunge has been steeper and faster than many analysts predicted. One local station owner predicted below $2 by Thanksgiving. Nationwide, the retail price of gasoline dropped 50 cents a gallon or 17 percent in the past month. It's down by nearly as much as it went up when Hurricane Katrina roared ashore a little over a year ago.

Analysts, quoted by the Associated Press, say fierce competition among gas station owners to have the lowest prices is fueling some of the dips. The cheaper the gas, the more money folks might spend inside the convenience store. We find that a more plausible explanation: The markups on non-gasoline purchases are much higher than the gas itself.

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