Coastal state Dems mixed on Obama's offshore proposal

President Obama’s proposal to expand offshore oil drilling is being met with a mixed reaction from Democratic candidates in coastal areas.

Former Delaware Lt. Gov. John Carney (D), who is running for the state’s open at-large House seat, came out with a statement this afternoon bristling at the idea of drilling off the coast of his state.

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"I strongly support the goal of energy independence, however I am opposed to oil exploration and drilling off the coast of Delaware,” Carney said. “I have serious concerns about the impact of offshore oil drilling on our beaches and fragile coastal areas.”

Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.), meanwhile, took a more middle-ground approach.

“I’m glad to see the president take a step in this direction for Virginia, but this must be part of a real energy independence strategy, not an excuse to avoid one,” said Perriello, who is a top GOP target this year.

Periello’s Virginia colleague, Rep. Glenn Nye (D-Va.), represents a coastal Virginia Beach district. He came out in favor of the president’s proposal.

“Offshore oil production will create jobs here in Virginia and provide a much-needed boost in revenue for our local economy,” Nye said.

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), who hails from southwest Virginia, told the Martinsville Bulletin that he approves of drilling but said it shouldn’t be done in Virginia Beach.

The issue was an easier call for some, like Reps. Travis Childers (D-Miss.) and Charlie Melancon (D-La.). Both members from Gulf Coast states said they whole-heartedly support it.

Melancon is running for Senate in a key area for oil drilling, and he welcomed the proposal.

“Exploration in the eastern Gulf will do a great deal to expand the presence of Louisiana in the offshore economy,” Melancon said. “Opening the (Outer Continental Shelf) along the Atlantic coast could be a shot in the arm for Louisiana’s economy, as our homegrown companies are unparalleled in offshore exploration, drilling and services.”

Others who will have to weigh in on the proposal include Reps. Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.) and Ron Klein (D-Fla.), as well as South Carolina Democrat Rob Miller, who is challenging Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.). All are running in coastal districts.

The issue could also be big in the race to replace Melancon and retiring Rep. Henry Brown (R-S.C.), as both of their districts run along the coast as well.

The Democratic candidates especially are faced with an unusual choice between backing their president and satisfying the liberal base, which generally opposes expanded offshore drilling. Some Democratic senators from blue states have come out against the idea.

In some cases, that could be a good thing, though. It gives the candidates – many of whom are running in conservative districts – the opportunity to separate themselves from their party or their president.

Republican reaction, meanwhile, morphed from some initial praise for Obama to suggestions that his proposal is merely a token.

Marco Rubio, the conservative frontrunner in the GOP Senate race in Florida, initially said he was surprised by the announcement and praised Obama.

“It's the right decision for our country,” he told the Palm Beach Post.

Today, though, Rubio took a more tentative position, joining with GOP concerns about how revolutionary Obama’s proposal actually is.

"If this is trickery . . . he's going to be exposed, and the backlash is going to be significant,” he told the Washington Times.

But not all Republicans said the idea didn’t go for enough. Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), who is running for Senate, expressed environmental concerns and is taking a wait-and-see approach.

“Delawareans must be fully engaged in this feasibility investigation and should carefully weigh any new proposal with the impact to environmentally sensitive areas and the economic benefits of tourism in our state,” Castle said.