As I went through the news this morning, I picked up on a subtle theme that seems to be permeating the political discourse right now.
The Hill quoted a GOP strategist saying Team Romney has "the stench of a losing campaign."
Politico quoted Greg Strimple, who worked on John McCain's 2008 campaign, saying, "The problem is the campaign is now in a spiral and no one knows how to pull out." The same piece quoted a senior Republican who's also deeply involved in this cycle's campaign, who said, "As a candidate, [Romney] is just not going to improve." A Romney bundler added, "[W]e're just ... imploding."
The New York Times reported that a "palpably gloomy and openly frustrated mood has begun to creep into Mr. Romney's campaign for president," and some Romney aides "are now wondering whether victory is still possible." A "flustered adviser, describing the mood, said that the campaign was turning into a vulgar, unprintable phrase."
The Daily Beast ran a piece from Mark McKinnon, a former Bush adviser, who wrote, "I honestly don't know what Romney can do to win support from the voters he needs to gain a majority. I thought the debates would be an opportunity, but he has dug his hole so deeply now, I don't know if he can pull himself out.... I loved Michelle Obama's line in her speech: 'A presidency reveals who you are.' So do campaigns. And mark me down as one Republican not happy with what is being revealed about Mitt Romney."
And the Huffington Post quoted a Republican consultant with deep experience on Capitol Hill and extensive contacts in the Romney campaign, who said, "There's a feeling of almost that this thing's in free fall."
Clearly, Romney is not where he wants or needs to be, but I'm rather amazed the panic is so widespread and public. President Obama's leading, but his advantage can best be described as modest, and Romney and his allies are sitting out a mountain of cash, which will finance "carpet bombing" that has not yet begun. There's just no need for this freak-out.
But the freak-out is nevertheless well underway.
There's a real danger of a self-fulfilling prophecy here, in which donors and activists simply start to assume Romney is doomed -- because Republicans keep telling them he's doomed -- and pull back from investing more resources.