WASHINGTON - Democrats aren't just nervous about President Barack Obama's listless debate performance. One month from Election Day, supporters worry his campaign hasn't been aggressive enough in managing the fallout, and they fear losing ground with women voters.
The hand-wringing prompted Obama on Wednesday to respond directly, assuring backers, "I got this."
Party loyalists, in Washington and in battleground states, are fretting that Obama's campaign has been slow to rebound after last week's lead-off debate, which Republican Mitt Romney is widely viewed as having won. They're worried that the Democrat ticket hasn't been able to block Romney's post-debate momentum. And they fear Romney's showing a softer side gives the Republican nominee an opening with female voters, who are crucial to candidates' election prospects.
President Barack Obama speaks in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday.
"I'm not feeling very positive," said Awilda Marquez, a prominent Democrat in Colorado. "I know that it's only the first debate, but he can't seem to change the relentless negative coverage. Romney has been able to take control."
Her nervousness was echoed by other Democrats in interviews across the country before Vice President Joe Biden's debate today against Republican Paul Ryan.
Obama's campaign, seeking to address some of the concerns, launched a fresh critique of Romney on Wednesday for saying he wouldn't pursue abortion-related legislation as president. Obama aides accused the Republican of "hiding" his positions of earlier in the year in order to gain women's votes.
The only debate between the vice presidential candidates will take place at 9 p.m. today and will air on most of the major networks.
The president's team says no major changes are expected in his own re-election strategy. Nevertheless, the president and his aides are hoping to reassure anxious Democrats that key factors are still in their favor.
"By next week, I think a lot of the hand-wringing will be complete because we're going to go ahead and win this thing," Obama said.
But there's little doubt that any advantage Obama may have enjoyed last month has come to a halt following the first debate. The rumblings in the Democrat ranks focus largely on whether the campaign has been aggressive enough coming out of the first debate, particularly in accusing Romney of lying about his positions.
Some Democrats fear the debate fallout is leading to softening support for the president among women, long one of his strengths.
Romney is sending messages to the female voters coming out of the debate, sprinkling personal anecdotes into his speeches to show more empathy. The Republican also said this week that he would not pursue any abortion-related legislation if elected.
Obama aides dispute much of the criticism of their tactics, pointing to their response to Romney's apparent shift on abortion.
"We're not saying he's changed his mind on these issues," said Stephanie Cutter, Obama's deputy campaign manager. "We're saying he's trying to cover up his beliefs."
The president's support among female registered voters dropped 5 percentage points following the debate, according to Gallup surveys.