Politics

Obama brings back a White House political office

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is bringing back an internal White House political office to help boost congressional Democrats as the midterm elections approach.

Obama announced Friday that he's named David Simas, a top adviser grappling with problems with his health care rollout, to oversee a new Office of Political Strategy and Outreach. Simas will look out for the needs of Democratic congressional candidates and evaluate political support for Obama's agenda.

Helping Democrats maintain control of the Senate is crucial to Obama's hopes of getting his priorities through Congress in the last two years of his presidency. Obama made the unusual presidential move of closing the White House political operation in 2011 and shifting its director, Patrick Gaspard, to run the national party headquarters before choosing him last year as ambassador to South Africa. Congressional Democrats have been grumbling that no one inside the White House is focused on the political environment, with their jobs on the line and tied to Obama's performance.

The new office will be slimmed down from the 15-member operation that existed before 2011, with about a third of the staff. Its creation comes after Obama overhauled his legislative affairs office in recent weeks to improve relations with lawmakers. Democrats were concerned that last year's bruising partisan battles over health care and the budget could hurt their chances in the midterm elections.

Simas will advise the president on the political climate, handle requests for campaign appearances and coordinate strategy with the Democratic National Committee and other national and local party operations. The White House said he'll also tell administration officials what they can do legally when they get involved in political activity.

Simas is a Massachusetts native and former aide to Gov. Deval Patrick. His title at the White House has been deputy senior adviser for communications and strategy, which oversees polling and message development and has been recently consumed with handling the fallout of health care website problems.

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