Despite early bumps, Obama campaign sees electoral advantage

It was a rocky May for the Obama campaign, and apparently it’s already time for a pep talk.

Just about a month ago, the president held the first public rallies of his campaign. But the campaign soon faced a hasty rollout of the president’s new position on gay marriage, saw its first major attack message on Bain Capital undermined by leading surrogates, and faced new signs of trouble on the economy.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney was locking up his party’s nomination and coalescing support, while polls showed a narrowing general election fight.

Nothing to worry about, a decidedly upbeat Obama campaign manager Jim Messina tells supporters in a new video.

“We knew this was going to be a tough race. And we knew that once Mitt Romney locked up the nomination, Republicans would get behind him and this race would be tight, just like we always knew it would be,” he said.

In fact, he points out that the president is in a stronger position in head-to-head polls today than he was four years ago, albeit only as the dust was settling on a bitter Democratic primary fight with Hillary Clinton.

Messina then offered a glimpse at where the campaign sees the electoral map, saying by their math, Obama is ahead 243 to 191, with 104 electoral votes up for grabs.

The battlegrounds shape up like so:

Toss-Ups: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Leaning Obama: Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania.
Leaning Romney: Arizona, Indiana and Missouri.

The breakdown is most notable for Wisconsin’s inclusion as a toss-up state, while states seen as more competitive in the fall -- like Pennsylvania and Nevada -- are now tentatively in the Obama column.

In all those states, Messina said the difference will be its ground game.

“We’re following the strategy we’ve had since day one, and we can’t afford to lose focus on that,” he said. “We can’t pay attention to anything else, good or bad. We’re going to run the most sophisticated grassroots campaign this country has ever seen, and to do that, we need to stay focused, work hard, and ignore the ups and downs.”

That advice from Messina came as another top campaign official was beating back questions from reporters about whether their messaging has been successful, specifically on Bain Capital.

Senior strategist David Axelrod pointed out that the campaign is putting significantly more muscle behind its new ad campaign that questions what he said was Romney’s “vastly inflated self-promotion as a job creator” by pointing to his record as Massachusetts governor.

And he blasted what he considered a double standard on the part of Romney’s campaign to beat back such criticism by saying he should not be accountable for the weak state economy he inherited, a courtesy they don’t extend to Obama on a national basis.

“Are they kidding, and do people expect people to take this seriously?” he asked. “We’re not going to hold him by a different standard. By any standard his record of job creation in Massachusetts was unimpressive.”

The Romney campaign responded that it was “good news that President Obama’s team has decided to discuss jobs and the economy.”

“We are happy to compare Gov. Romney’s record of positive job creation and a 4.7% unemployment rate in Massachusetts to President Obama’s record of declining job growth and 40 straight months of unemployment above 8%,” spokesperson Andrea Saul said.