Tensions have come to the surface after meetings over the past few weeks in which Obama senior adviser David Axelrod discussed communications strategy with senior Democratic strategists and party officials. Some Democrats were so unhappy with the White House meetings, they started their own.

The strategy sessions aired a range of disagreements over how to help Democrats forestall an electoral drubbing at the polls—a defeat party strategists believe could have been minimized with a different White House.

Among the complaints: Mr. Obama conveyed an incoherent message that didn’t express what Democrats would do over the next two years if they retain power; he focused more on his own image than helping Democratic candidates; and the White House picked the wrong battle when it attacked Republicans for using “outside” money to pay for campaigns, an issue disconnected from voters’ real-world anxieties…

“We ignored what voters were actually feeling and thinking,” this strategist said.