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Nervous Dems say donors had better get going

Jun 15, 2012 - By Julie Pace, The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- A growing chorus of once-confident Democrats now say President Barack Obama could lose the November election.

The hand-wringing reflects real worries among Democrats about Obama's ability to beat Republican rival Mitt Romney, who has proven to be a stronger candidate than many expected. But it's also a political strategy aimed at rallying major donors who may have become complacent.

Interviews with a dozen Democratic strategists and fundraisers across the country show an increased sense of urgency among Obama backers. It follows a difficult two weeks for the president, including a dismal report on the nation's unemployment picture, a Democratic defeat in the Wisconsin governor recall election and an impressive fundraising month for Romney and Republicans.

"We've all got to get in the same boat and start paddling in the same direction, or we're going to have some problems," said Debbie Dingell, a Democratic National Committee member and the wife of Michigan Rep. John Dingell.

"We can't take this for granted," said Peter Burling, a DNC member from New Hampshire. "I intend to be running scared from now until November."

These worries have also prompted some second-guessing of an Obama campaign operation once perceived as run by disciplined message specialists. Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and former Clinton adviser James Carville this week wrote that Obama's efforts to convince voters that economic conditions are moving in the right direction aren't swaying people.

"We will face an impossible head wind in November if we do not move to a new narrative," the strategists wrote.

Former Democratic Party chairman Don Fowler faulted the Obama camp for not laying more blame on Republicans for the slow economic recovery.

"The Obama campaign should make it clear whose fundamental fault the economic problems are, and they've chosen not to do that," he said, echoing an argument made by other Democrats. "Not doing that, they forfeit an argument, a strategy, a technique toward making the Republicans bear responsibility for these problems."

Some Democrats hope the deepening concern among some party faithful could lead to an increase in fundraising.

The mighty Obama and DNC fundraising operation fell behind Romney and Republicans in May, with the GOP team raising $76 million compared to the $60 million haul for the president and Democrats. And the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action has lagged far behind Republican-leaning outside groups, in part because of what senior strategist Bill Burton said was a sense of complacency among Democratic donors.

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