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Politico: Angst grows among Obama supporters

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Some progressives seem to be going into primal panic mode — to the profound annoyance of the Democratic professional political class and an Obama campaign predicting a rebound at next Tuesday's debate in Long Island.

(See also: Complete coverage of 2012 presidential debates)

"That's my party: Irrational overconfidence followed by irrational despair," quipped veteran Democratic political consultant Jim Jordan, summing up the view of Obama's campaign and a half-dozen top Democratic aides interviewed for this story.

But a lot of Democrats are somewhere in between — they simply can't believe Obama could be that bad again. Or could he?

"My honest and truthful answer is Democrats are not panicked — and I'm not exactly sure why," said longtime Clinton adviser James Carville, who thinks Obama will still win. "Maybe I'm being silly here, but I've talked to a lot of people today and everybody's saying the same thing. … Should I be more concerned than I am?

(Also on POLITICO: Mitt's post-debate bounce: Will it last?)

"We're all trying to talk ourselves into a state of panic, and we're not quite there yet."

The quick shift in the poll numbers in the week after the debate illustrates the volatility of the race in general — and the dangers of assuming that the outcome hinges on a tiny number of undecided moderates in swing states who will use the debates as a guide. Romney's surge, especially among previously Obama-friendly subgroups, suggests a much more fluid electorate — a dangerous dynamic for an Obama campaign that has trumpeted the "stability" of the race in the battleground states.

Insiders see Obama's flop as turbulence, unsettling but hardly fatal, and say their internal polling shows erosion but not anything approaching collapse.

A handful of liberal pundits — amplifying the visceral reactions of the party's liberal base to the debate and Obama's subsequent dip in the polls — think the plane is plunging into a cliff. They have found their muse in Daily Beast columnist Andrew Sullivan, whom Obama reads regularly and was once invited to a White House state dinner.

"Did Obama just throw away the election?" Sullivan wrote in a widely read column posted Monday night, which drew 21,000 Facebook likes within a few hours.

(Also on POLITICO: Rush: Dems are on 'suicide watch')

Sullivan, a political iconoclast who supports the president, became agitated after the release of a Pew poll Monday showing Romney vaulting 4 points ahead of Obama — a 12-point swing among likely voters since last month.



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