That view has come about in recent weeks with the rise of Gingrich, viewed by Obama strategists as a weaker general-election foe, and the struggles of Romney, whose ability to garner support from independent voters could be challenged as he is forced to shift rightward to win the nomination.
“I think a couple of months ago, we saw it as a much more difficult race,” said Gerald W. McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which endorsed Obama last week and has already spent $25 million toward his reelection. “A lot of people didn’t realize yet what the Republican lineup was going to look like, and what they were going to talk about and stand up for. Recently, with the debates the Republicans have had among themselves, people understand more.”
Republican strategist Mike Murphy said the changing political dynamic has given Obama’s team reason for new optimism. He described a Gingrich nomination as a “train wreck” for Republicans.
“At a minimum and maybe most meaningfully now is the psychological boost to the Obama guys,” Murphy said. “After being pounded for so long and being in the precarious situation they’ve been in, at least they can close their eyes now and see a credible chance of a Gingrich nomination, which would make life so much easier for them.”
Obama aides concede that the new political terrain is anything but ideal, but they sought to project an air of confidence on Tuesday with a presentation to reporters at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, arguing that the prospect of a long and bloody primary fight between Romney and Gingrich is helping the president.
The aides argued that Romney’s hard-line stances on immigration and his missteps — such as his attempted $10,000 bet during a candidates debate Saturday — are turning off general-election voters, while the extra time is giving Obama’s campaign unfettered space to build its grass-roots machinery in swing states.
“The longer this [Republican] race goes, the more you’re going to see these Republican candidates mortgage their general-election campaign to try and win the nomination,” said David Axelrod, the Obama campaign’s senior strategist.
Until recently, analysts and Obama supporters alike were wondering whether the president could overcome the dismal economic landscape to win reelection.
Obama’s overall standing in national public polls has improved slightly since hitting new lows earlier this fall, but on the economy — the major focus of the campaign — he remains at or near record lows. A CBS News poll released Friday shows just 28 percent of Americans saying Obama has made things better.