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Obama explains change on drilling

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Sen. Barack Obama said on Saturday that he would reluctantly consider accepting some new offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in exchange for stripping oil companies of tax breaks and extending several tax credits to spur the search for alternative fuels.

At the same time, Senate Republicans appear to have dropped their insistence on opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

Obama has until now opposed any new offshore drilling. But in a wide-ranging news conference Saturday morning, he noted that there have been ”very constructive“ talks in recent days, and he applauded an $84 billion plan unveiled by a group of Republican and Democratic senators to permit such drilling while supporting an effort to convert most vehicles to using alternative fuels in the next 20 years.

”If we come up with a genuine bipartisan compromise, where I have to accept some things that I don't like in order to get energy independence, that's something I will have to consider,“ Obama said.

Still, he cautioned that he is not yet ”ready to sign off on any approach.“

Some leading Democrats in the Senate want compromise on drilling, fearing their party's opposition is becoming an issue in the fall election campaign.

On Saturday in Orlando, Obama told the National Urban League convention that Republican candidate John McCain's presidential campaign is cynical, not racist, in its efforts to distract voters from real issues.

”In no way do I think that John McCain's campaign was being racist,“ Obama said in his first meeting with reporters since predicting that McCain and other Republicans would try to scare voters because Obama looks unlike ”all those other presidents on the dollar bills“ — most of them older white men.

”I think they're cynical,“ he said. ”And I think they want to distract people from talking about the real issues.“

He added of the Republicans' approach: ”They're very good at negative campaigning. They're not so good at governing.“