- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 1, 2010

Marco Rubio, the conservatives’ favorite in the Florida Republican primary race for a U.S. Senate seat, gave a tepid response Thursday to President Obama’s offshore drilling plan as he and others analyze the details.

“If this is trickery … he’s going to be exposed, and the backlash is going to be significant,” he said on The Washington Times’ “America’s Morning News” radio show.

Mr. Rubio, 48, lauded the plan Wednesday just hours after Mr. Obama’s announcement, saying at a Florida event that he had not seen the details but that drilling was “right for this country.”

Back in his office Thursday, Mr. Rubio, who leads Gov. Charlie Crist in the primary polls, vowed to take a closer look to learn why some GOP leaders have denounced the plan.

Mr. Obama wants to open the country’s southern Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico to oil drilling and exploration. However, Republicans do not like the plan largely because it excludes sections of the Pacific and Alaskan coastlines.

Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican, called the plan a “smoke screen,” while House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said the president “continues to defy the will of the American people” who supported drilling in those regions.

Said Mr. Rubio: “If there are details in the plan that actually undermine that, then we’ve got a problem… . If it’s a Trojan horse, then obviously we’re going to have a problem.”

In the closely watched race in which residents go to the polls Aug. 24, Mr. Rubio and Mr. Crist, 54, support offshore drilling and exploration but have concerns about preserving tourism and the environment.

The president’s plan allows drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast but excludes it off the state’s southern Atlantic coast — or Gold Coast — where tourism is a major factor. That region reportedly is not known to have significant oil or natural gas deposits.

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