McCain stumps in Florida

Published 12:27 pm Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Republican John McCain said he would boost the revenue Florida and other coastal states get from offshore drilling production, which he said would leave the decision on drilling to the states but give them an incentive to increase production.

“We will drill offshore, and we will drill now,” the Republican presidential candidate told a rally in Miami’s Little Havana. “If we’re going to drill off the state of Florida, you deserve more of those revenues. They shouldn’t be sent to Washington, they should be sent to Tallahassee.”

Since dropping his opposition to more offshore rigs this summer, McCain has made increased offshore production a centerpiece of his energy policies, while still leaving the final decision to states. Financial incentives would make them more likely to move. Energy experts note that oil produced by new offshore drilling wouldn’t reach consumers for years and would have no short-term affect gasoline prices, which are already falling.

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McCain was spending his day competing for Florida’s 27 electoral votes, considered crucial to his effort to assemble the needed 270 as the candidates focus on a shrinking number of battleground states. The Cuban section of Miami is a devout Republican base that he sought to energize with derisive references to the Cuba’s Castro brothers and ridicule of Democratic rival Barack Obama’s willingness to talk with hostile foreign leaders.

As for the Castro brothers, “We’ll sit down with them right after they empty the political prisons,” McCain said.

While McCain has spent much of his time distancing himself from President Bush, he gave Bush a nod in a place where he remains popular.

“It’s not an accident that the United States of America has not been attacked since 9/11,” McCain said. “I do believe the President of the United States deserves some credit for that.”

Later in the day to highlight his edge in experience over Obama, McCain was heading to Tampa to sit down with military officers who advise him on national security.

Throughout the day, the former Navy pilot and Vietnam prisoner of war touched on both national security and the economy.

“I have a plan to hold the line on taxes and cut them to make America more competitive,” said McCain. Speaking at a Miami lumber yard that employs 100 people, down from 300 because of economic turmoil, he argued that Obama’s economic plans would devastate small businesses.

“Sen. Obama and Sen. Biden ought to understand: Raising taxes makes a bad economy worse,” McCain said. He warned that Obama’s rhetoric masks a big-spending liberal politician.

“He can’t do that without raising your taxes or digging us further into debt,” said McCain.

And McCain has crafted a populist argument to deflect conservative criticism of his vote a $700 billion bailout of financial institutions. “I’m going to make sure we take care of the working people who were devastated by the excess and corruption of Wall Street and Washington,” he said.

Most polls show McCain trailing Obama nationally and in key battleground states, but the Arizona senator has built into his standard stump speech a dismissal of those figures. “They were wrong before and they’re wrong now,” said McCain.

McCain acknowledged the importance of the state that sealed Bush’s election by 537 votes in 2000.

“We’ve got to bring Florida home in our victory column,” said McCain, though he conceded, “There’s less than a week to go and we’re a few points down.”

From Florida, McCain planned to return to hotly contested Ohio for two days of campaigning by bus.