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Marco Rubio backs off support for oil drilling

U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio surprises a supporter by answering the phone at his Pinellas County campaign headquarters in Clearwater on Friday.

LARA CERRI | Times

U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio surprises a supporter by answering the phone at his Pinellas County campaign headquarters in Clearwater on Friday.

CLEARWATER — The day after he effectively locked down the GOP U.S. Senate nomination, Marco Rubio tempered his support for expanded drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and wouldn't commit to releasing state party credit card statements.

Nor would Rubio — or Democrat Kendrick Meek — agree to release 10 years of tax returns, as Gov. Charlie Crist already did.

"The details of that are coming," Rubio told reporters Friday, after greeting campaign volunteers in Clearwater. "You're going to know more about me than you probably will know about any other candidate in this race, both financially, personally and otherwise."

Rubio has strongly supported more drilling off Florida's coast, but in the aftermath of the oil rig explosion near Louisiana, he said Friday that no expansion should take place until that spill is investigated.

"I believe you can safely drill for oil. It's done all over the world, it's been done in the Gulf of Mexico," Rubio said. "We should be very concerned with what led to this disaster, and until that question is answered I don't think we can move forward on anything else."

Rubio came to Crist's home county the day after the governor announced he was dropping out of the Republican primary and would run as a nonpartisan candidate in the Nov. 2 general election. Crist's announcement Thursday means Rubio essentially won the GOP primary.

"We won the primary four months early!" supporter Eileen Blackner cheered as the former House speaker approached the campaign office.

"We still have a lot of work ahead of us," Rubio cautioned.

He faces plenty of scrutiny ahead. On MSNBC's Morning Joe show Friday, host Joe Scarborough said Rubio's campaign refused to let him appear because Scarborough had previously talked about the IRS looking at Rubio's spending on a state party credit card.

"A political campaign that is scared to send their person out to talk to a like-minded conservative — that sounds like a political operation that doesn't think their player's ready for prime time," said Scarborough, a former Republican congressman.

Rubio said he knew nothing about Scarborough's remarks and that he has not heard from the IRS.

The Miami Republican faced criticism after revelations that he charged more than $100,000 on his party credit from late 2006 to 2008 — everything from car repairs to electronics and movies. Rubio also used a party credit card prior to that period, but state party chairman John Thrasher said he will only release credit card statements from the period Jim Greer was party chairman.

Rubio could order the statements himself from American Express, but he said Friday he would let Thrasher decide: "We're going to make a decision that's in the best interests of the party."

Miami Herald staff writer Beth Reinhard and Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Adam Smith can be reached at asmith@sptimes.com.

Marco Rubio backs off support for oil drilling 04/30/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 1, 2010 8:58am]

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