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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

McCain talks drilling and defends 'race card'



Sen. John McCain arrived in Panama City and wasted no time calling for increased offshore oil drilling. Americans, he said, "want us to do something about the high price of a gallon of gas. They want offshore drilling. And they want to drill now."

It's a position his rival seems to be adopting, however carefully. In an interview today with the St. Petersburg Times, Sen. Barack Obama expressed support for a bipartisan energy plan that would permit oil drilling within 50 miles of Florida's west coast. McCain seemed unaware of that when asked during a news conference and instead restated Obama's previous resistance to drilling.

"The only thing I've heard him say is we should inflate our tires. He has no plan for addressing the energy challenges that we face. We need drilling everywhere that the states and the governors, such as in the state of Florida, approve of," McCain said, appearing at a waterfront hotel with his wife, Cindy, and Gov. Charlie Crist.

But the news conference was dominated by the battle d'jour: Whether it was fair for McCain to accuse Obama of playing the "race card" with comments earlier this week.

His reply, in short: Obama started it.

"I think his comments were clearly the race card," McCain said. "I didn't bring up the issue. Sen. Obama did. Three times in one day ... He brought up the issue of race. I responded." Still, McCain said he was ready to "move on," perhaps not wanting to let the explosive issue get out of hand. He also suggested Obama had "retracted" the remarks that set off the, though we have not confirmed that.

A TV reporter asked if McCain was going to "steal" our governor.

"I think that the governor has earned a place in the Republican Party, not just in the state of Florida but nationally," McCain replied. "He’s a great leader. And I think that obviously, he has a major role to play in the Republican Party in this nation in the future. We aren’t talking about the (VP vetting) process."

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 10:05am]


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