Interviews with about two dozen Republican elected officials, aides, strategists and lobbyists reveal a newfound optimism that with a competent, on-message campaign, Romney will be at least competitive with a weakened incumbent. That’s a dramatic shift from the fatalistic view many party stalwarts shared mere weeks ago.

“Romney is a lot better off than I expected him to be this quickly,” said former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour,, who cast a primary vote for Newt Gingrich. “A lot of people were concerned that Romney, with his being the least conservative of all the Republican candidates, was going to have to work hard to unite the party — that he would have a serious sales job on his hands. But President Obama has apparently taken care of that for him.”…

But the more tangible evidence for Republicans that Obama is indeed a political mortal can be found on the balance sheet. Long-held GOP fears about a billion-dollar reelection campaign are fading. With Romney and the RNC raising nearly as much as Obama and the DNC in April, and conservative super PACs far outpacing their liberal counterparts, Republicans believe they may reach financial parity with the president…

Republicans have also been heartened by the speed at which rank-and-file conservatives have rallied to Romney. A Gallup poll earlier in the month showed that about 90 percent of Republicans said they’d support their nominee — about the same number of Democrats indicating they’ll back Obama. The New York Times/CBS poll showed similar GOP support for Romney, a little better than Obama was doing in his own party.