As you probably know, gas prices — which peaked in August with a national average just over $3 — are falling. Some optimists think the national average could drop below $2 by the end of the year.

This autumn also happens to mark the U.S. mid-term congressional elections.

Hmm … [strokes chin, adjusts tinfoil hat] … is something fishy going on here? Is Big Oil colluding with Big GOP to dampen voter discontent and preserve a Republican majority?

Well, no. Not by lowering gas prices, anyway. And if they tried it, it probably wouldn’t work.

As Jerome a Paris explains over on dKos, the recent downturn in prices is fairly predictable based on market forces. Margins are too thin, and taxes too fixed, for any particular player to have the power to manipulate prices in the short term. Once upon a time OPEC could have done it by flooding the market with crude, but they don’t have sufficient reserves to pull that kind of trick any more.

Anyway, as Brendan Nyhan points out, the strength of correlation between gas prices and the ruling party’s approval rating is vastly overstated anyway.

I’m afraid if Republicans want to game the mid-terms, they’re going to have to do it the old-fashioned way: by starting a war.