As President Obama and Democratic Party strategists try to deal with his sinking approval numbers, it's becoming increasingly difficult to spin something positive out of the way he's handling this economy.

Last Sunday, former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs did his best, citing recent "positive job" figures, even though the unemployment rate remained at 8.3 percent. One thing Obama's $825 billion stimulus has done is give Republicans plenty of ammunition. Major GOP talking points will continue to be the nation's sluggish unemployment rate, and crippling gas prices which have soared from $1.89 when Obama took office to $3.80 (and counting) today.

Instead of going to those media- hyped union pep rallies staged in government-propped auto plants, the president might want to consider a trip to North Dakota to learn that state's success formula for real "recovery."

An oil boom in the western part of the state is drawing workers from across the country and North Dakota is thriving. One town official says he's seen license plates from all 50 states in the nation.

North Dakota recently surpassed California as the third largest U.S. oil-producing state, and should be overtaking Alaska, which trails Texas, for Number 2. Due to the latest technology in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, the state even outproduces OPEC member Ecuador.

Oil production has doubled in the three years since 2009, and January's oil output of 546,050 barrels per day marked a 59.2 percent increase from a year earlier.

The state's 3.3 percent unemployment rate is the lowest in the nation, prompting some to say there are more jobs than people in North Dakota.

Since 2001, North Dakotans' personal income has grown nearly 25 percent and one Wall Street Journal writer pointed out that even employees at McDonald's are making $18 per hour. One Wal-mart store in the oil boom town of Williston has a hard time keeping up with demand, selling out of merchandise almost daily.

North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple recently contrasted his state's booming economy against the Obama administration's policies, which he said are "killing energy development." He says his state's winning strategy for oil development and energy independence have translated into soaring job growth, lower tax rates and, at a time when 46 out of 50 states are insolvent, a $1 billion budget surplus. All of these factors attract new companies and have prompted longtime business heavyweights like John Deere, Caterpillar and Amazon.com to expand.

Dalrymple says Obama has the nation on the wrong track with federal overregulation and his decision to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline project to transport synthetic crude oil from Canada to destinations in the United States. He dismisses the president's argument that more time is needed to "study" the project, pointing out that Obama has already had six years to study it.

As we enter the warm weather months and gas prices continue to rise, pressure will be mounting on the Obama administration to ease regulations and open up more U.S. land and off-shore areas to domestic energy exploration and drilling.

This president would be wise to plug into some of North Dakota's sound principles in order to rescue his own failing economic game plan.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com