Democrats are expressing growing alarm about President Obama’s re-election prospects and, in interviews, are openly acknowledging anxiety about the White House’s ability to strengthen the president’s standing over the next 14 months.
Elected officials and party leaders at all levels said their worries have intensified as the economy has displayed new signs of weakness. They said the likelihood of a highly competitive 2012 race is increasing as the Republican field, once dismissed by many Democrats as too inexperienced and conservative to pose a serious threat, has started narrowing to two leading candidates, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, who have executive experience and messages built around job creation.
And in a campaign cycle in which Democrats had entertained hopes of reversing losses from last year’s midterm elections, some in the party fear that Mr. Obama’s troubles could reverberate down the ballot into Congressional, state and local races.
“In my district, the enthusiasm for him has mostly evaporated,” said Representative Peter A. DeFazio, Democrat of Oregon. “There is tremendous discontent with his direction.”
The president’s economic address last week offered a measure of solace to discouraged Democrats by employing an assertive and scrappy style that many supporters complain has been absent for the last year as he has struggled to rise above Washington gridlock. Several Democrats suggested that he watch a tape of the jobs speech over and over and use it as a guide until the election.
But a survey of two dozen Democratic officials found a palpable sense of concern that transcended a single week of ups and downs. The conversations signaled a change in mood from only a few months ago, when Democrats widely believed that Mr. Obama’s path to re-election, while challenging, was secure.
“The frustrations are real,” said Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, who was the state chairman of Mr. Obama’s campaign four years ago. “I think we know that there is a Barack Obama that’s deep in there, but he’s got to synchronize it with passion and principles.”
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