The reality of high gas prices and the successful advertising blitz of the McCain team has helped redefine the nature and relevance of the economy in voters' minds and in media discussion.

In making sense of the complexity of the economy, public focus has been shifted from housing, health care, and jobs to a singular fixation on energy, specifically gas prices. Given McCain's position on drilling, it's an interpretative shift that heavily favors his candidacy. Here's how The Politico described the GOP strategy with a noteworthy quote from the pollster Peter Brown:

"I think they have a real opportunity," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "What they're trying to do is redefine the economic issue as energy. The Republicans' biggest problem in this election is that they are viewed as less able to fix the economy. When the economy is defined as job loss, mortgage foreclosures, high health care costs, that's Democratic territory. Obama wants to play on that field.

"McCain wants to define it as being about energy, because his being in favor of drilling is on the right side of the numbers," said Brown.

Quinnipiac's most recent polling in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania did indeed show wide margins favoring offshore drilling, as well as narrowing leads for Obama, Brown said.

"Anything that shows that the Republicans are for drilling because they think it will lower gas prices, and the Democrats are against it, is probably good for Republicans," he said.