In the conservative Florida Pandhandle, where Sarah Palin’s battle cry “Drill, Baby, Drill” is still visible on car bumpers, some are reconsidering their support of offshore drilling as a growing spill in the Gulf of Mexico drifts closer to shore.

Charter captain Jim McMahon, who spent Thursday catching cobia and King Mackerel, said the spill changed his mind.

“I am pessimistic about this,” he said. “It could be devastating to the fishing and tourism industry. People aren’t going to come to a beach if they have to step through tar balls.”

McMahon isn’t alone. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the cause of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, still not determined, could affect what areas the federal government would open for future drilling. And Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who surveyed the massive oil slick this week and called it “frightening,” backed off his support for offshore oil extraction.

“It’s the last thing in the world I would want to see happen in our beautiful state,” said Mr Crist, adding that there is no question now that lawmakers should give up on the idea this year and in coming years. “Until you actually see it, I don’t know how you can comprehend and appreciate the shear magnitude of that thing.”

Environmentalists were already mobilizing around the issue.

“This event is a game changer, and the consequences, I believe, will be long-lasting ecologically and politically _ and will be irreversible,” said Richard Charter, energy consultant to Defenders of Wildlife.

The full fallout of the spill, however, remains to be seen.