As for fooling themselves, I have to wonder whether the Obama people were spoofing Heilemann at points. He quotes Plouffe as saying. "Let's be clear what (Romney) would do as president," and then summarizes: "Potentially abortion will be criminalized. Women will be denied contraceptive services. He's far right on immigration. He supports efforts to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage."
These claims don't seem sustainable to me. No one seriously thinks there's any likelihood of criminalizing abortion or banning contraception. Romney brushed off that last one in a debate.
Nor is there any chance an anti-same-sex marriage amendment would get the two-thirds it needs in Congress to go to the states. Opposing legalization of illegal immigrants is not a clear vote-loser, particularly now that, the Pew Hispanic Center reports, a million have left the country.
Also, the Obama managers' explanations about why it's really not inconsistent to attack Romney as a flip-flopper during the primaries and then flip-flop to attack him for "extreme right" views do not ring true. It sounds as "thoroughly tactical" as Axelrod's description of Romney.
Heilemann quotes Messina as saying Obama has "a distinct advantage" in battleground states. He envisions the campaign as a long, hard slog through the target states, like George W. Bush's re-election campaign in 2004.
That's what it looks like now. But there are other possibilities. Bush was running in a 10-year period in which partisan preferences were very steady. In five straight House elections from 1996 to 2004, each party got about the same percentage of the popular vote every time.
We're in a different setting now. Obama won the popular vote by 7 points in 2008. Republicans won the House popular vote by 7 points in 2010. Many more voters have been moving around than had been eight years ago.
The strategy of rallying currently unenthusiastic core Obama voters -- Hispanics, young voters, unmarried women -- risks alienating others who may be more moveable than their counterparts were in 2004. The Obama managers seem unaware of that risk. Could be a problem for them.