White House thrilled to see Romney's appeal to independents sink

Obama advisers disagree. They argue that, at a time when many Americans see economic and political systems that appear to be stacked against them, Romney’s decision to base his campaign message on his work at a private equity firm could be a major mistake.

What Obama’s advisers say they did not anticipate was the degree to which Romney would compound that vulnerability through missteps.

“These are all self-inflicted,” said one adviser to the president who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the campaign candidly. “He has done as much damage to himself with how he’s handled this as anything his opponents have said about him. That’s why I think he’s made it worse.”