byBrian Hughes . . .President Obama's campaign manager had a clear message Monday for supporters wary of the president's standing in an increasingly competitive race for the White House: Chill out.
"We knew this was going to be a tough race," Jim Messina said in the campaign's latest web video. "Here's one more thing you can tell your friends when they ask you about the latest polls: We're actually ahead of where we were at this point last time around."
New polling shows Obama in a virtual dead heat with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who is gaining on the president as the economic recovery sputters and Romney distances himself from a divisive primary battle.
The Obama campaign's claim that he is doing better now than he was four years ago doesn't necessarily bode well for the incumbent president given that Obama was an untested junior senator running his first nationwide campaign in June 2008. And the reassurances it issued Monday are doing little to immediately calm Democrats' concerns.
A growing chorus of Democrats, citing a shifting mood among voters, are wondering why Obama isn't doing better than he is five months out from the election.
"I'm scared as [expletive]," one top Democratic strategist told The Washington Examiner, granted anonymity to candidly discuss Obama's re-election prospects. "This message from the campaign is clearly a laughable attempt to gloss over a terrible patch for the president."
Added Democratic strategist Doug Schoen, "It's gone from 'We expect he'll be re-elected' to 'We think he'll be re-elected' to 'We hope he'll be re-elected' to 'He'll probably be re-elected if everything goes right.' Yes, they have something to worry about."
The economy added just 69,000 jobs in May, well below projections, and the unemployment rate inched up to 8.2 percent at a time when voters are intently focused on the issue of jobs.
Moreover, Obama's early attacks on Romney's tenure at the private equity firm Bain Capital backfired to an extent when other Democrats -- including former President Clinton and Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker -- defended Romney's career and private equity investments in general.
Messina counters that, whatever the polls show, Obama continues to enjoy broad grassroots support that will allow him to win in November.
By Messina's count, the president already enjoys a lead of 243 to 191 in electoral votes over Romney, assuming that Nevada, New Mexico, Minnesota and Michigan lean Democratic, while Arizona, Missouri and Indiana tilt Republican.
Messina labeled Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado and New Hampshire as tossup states, amounting to 104 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win in November.
The placement of Wisconsin in the tossup category is an acknowledgement from the Obama campaign that the recall election against Republican Gov. Scott Walker Tuesday could galvanize conservatives and produce a Romney upset there this fall.
The important thing, Messina said, is for Democrats to look past the president's early missteps -- and the gloomy news contained in recent polls.
"The only poll that really matters is Nov. 6, Election Day," he said. "We can't pay attention to anything else, good or bad."
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