Must read from Politico: White House sends team to Florida to contain spill backlash

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Excerpts from Mike Allen’s Playbook, full story here: The White House has quietly launched an effort to confront the political backlash along the Gulf Coast over its handling of the BP oil spill – giving special attention to Florida, the only state in the region President Barack Obama won in 2008 and one he will need again in 2012…

… The White House dispatched political and communications aides to the Gulf Coast states on July 12, with Alabama and Mississippi each receiving one, sources familiar with the effort said. Some aides went to Louisiana. Florida received four…

The administration aides in Florida…do rapid response and media coordination, and they report back to senior aides in the West Wing in nearly real time about what they’re hearing. The effort came about after the White House grew concerned over political damage from not having a permanent presence in the Gulf Coast states. Obama’s top advisers summoned a small group of young, former campaign staffers working in the administration to the White House for a meeting … No one mentioned 2012, but it was clear the administration’s approach to the oil spill had the potential to hurt the president’s re-election campaign … ‘Someone recognized that all we were doing was playing defense,’ an administration official said…

…White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the officials are on the Gulf Coast to ensure an effective response…‘This was an unprecedented disaster, the likes of [which] we haven’t ever seen,’ Gibbs said. ‘We moved folks there as the disaster lasted longer and needed to ensure we had the personnel there to do what needed to be done to respond effectively.’ The Florida team arrived in New Orleans to begin a series of briefings that took them to Mobile, Ala., and ultimately, Tallahassee, Fla. They set up shop in Florida’s Emergency Operations Center, where they work alongside the Coast Guard and down the hall from BP and state officials. Their task is to improve the administration’s outreach with local leaders, and to tend to political fields the White House has largely neglected…

…The White House team in Florida includes Jon Wright, the Obama campaign’s deputy political director in northwest Florida who works in legislative affairs for the Commerce Department; Tom Reynolds, the campaign’s deputy communications director in Ohio and now the deputy director of public affairs at the Energy Department; Rohan Patel, the campaign’s Indiana political director who is a senior adviser to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack; and Kevin Lewis, a White House press assistant who also worked on the campaign.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.