Dems beginning to panic at Team Obama incompetence?

The Washington Post offers a slightly more mild headline — “Obama campaign’s rough patch concerns some Democrats.”  The lead sentence from Karen Tumulty demonstrates the reality of the reaction to six straight weeks of stumbling and bumbling from Team O, however:

Is it time for Democrats to panic?

That’s what a growing number of party loyalists are wondering, amid a rough couple of weeks in which President Obama and his political operation have been buffeted by bad economic news, their own gaffes and signs that the presumed Republican nominee is gaining strength.

Concerns?  Tumulty points to the report from Democracy Corps that warned Obama and his campaign that he has lost credibility on the single most important issue in the election — the economy.  James Carville’s group warned that Democrats would face “an impossible head wind in November” if the party and Obama’s campaign can’t figure out a “new narrative,” because their attempts at setting the narrative so far have failed miserably.  With less than five months to go before the election, and with Mitt Romney just getting started, the bad start for the more experienced of the two campaigns portends deep problems all the way down the ticket for Democrats.

How deep?  National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar says Romney may be in position to take three big Democratic states in November, any one of which would doom Obama’s re-election chances:

With the economy struggling to pick up steam, three must-win “blue-wall” states are looking increasingly winnable for the Romney campaign: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Both election results (from the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall) and reputable polling show that all three states are shaping up to be highly competitive, and that both campaigns will be devoting significant resources there.

Three new polls underscore why Team Obama has reason to be concerned about their standing in the Rust Belt. An EPIC/MRA poll of Michigan registered voters released last week shows Romney leading Obama, 46 to 45 percent, with only 41 percent viewing the president favorably. In Pennsylvania, a newly-released Quinnipiac poll shows Obama with a 46 percent job-approval rating—in the danger zone for a sitting president—and leading Romney 46 percent to 40 percent. And in Wisconsin, exit polls conducted for the gubernatorial race showed Obama with a 51 percent to 45 percent lead, too close for comfort in a must-win blue-wall state. …

Obama’s team expected that the historic Democratic tilt of those states would keep them in its column. But the slow-growing economy is putting them squarely in play, one of the biggest reasons why Obama’s reelection now looks in jeopardy.

If this holds up, Democrats may be past the point of hitting the panic button, and perhaps need to be looking for the lifeboats.  If Obama loses just one of these states, it’s almost impossible for him to win the election.  Getting to the point of losing any of these states would mean that Ohio and Florida are probably already out of reach, and Virginia very much in play.  Losing two of these states would nearly eliminate any mathematical path to Electoral College victory, and losing all three would mean a landslide victory for Romney.  If all three just remain competitive, Obama will have to spend a lot of money and attention on defense in traditional Democratic strongholds, meaning less time and attention in what had been considered swing states like Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Iowa, and the interior West — all of which he won in 2008.

The economy will be the key for these states.  If it continues to falter over the summer, Democrats had better switch to a strategy of preserving what they can in the Senate and House.  If Republicans become competitive in these key states, Democrats may lose a lot more ground than just the White House.