WASHINGTON — After a month in which some prominent Democrats op- enly questioned President Obama's campaign strategy, the mood at the White House has risen, with strategists believing their efforts to define Mitt Romney as a corporate outsourcing specialist are proving a success with swing voters.
The shift can be seen in several recent polls that have shown Obama ahead in key states and moving upward nationally. In Gallup's daily tracking poll, for example, Obama has taken a 48%-44% lead over Romney, the first significant lead that either candidate has held since late April in Gallup's survey.
The upward movement for the president, which has now been sustained for six days, began before the Supreme Court's decision upholding most of his signature healthcare law, so it does not reflect a reaction to that ruling.
Democratic strategists credit their attacks on Romney's record at Bain Capital -- the same record that Romney touts as proof of his ability to fix what's wrong with the economy.
The shift comes as Obama prepares to set off on his first multi-day campaign swing this year, a two-day bus tour of Pennsylvania and Ohio beginning Thursday, complete with ice cream socials and events being billed as a "celebration of the American worker."
Tougher times may be around the corner. Friday will bring the monthly jobs report, which could reflect continued weakness in the U.S. economy. The downturns in Europe and China have begun to affect American manufacturers, according to economic indicators released Monday.
In addition, Romney and his allies continue to outpace Obama and the Democrats on fundraising.
But Obama's team thinks his message about Romney is getting through to voters, and they plan to step up the intensity. Though Obama himself is expected to keep things genial on this tour, the television spots and surrogates in battleground states will be pushing the message that Romney was an outsourcing "pioneer."
A new television advertisement argues that Romney's policies threaten the middle class. Obama fought to "save the auto industry," the ad asserts, and is fighting now to end tax breaks for companies that shift jobs overseas. The ad is airing in nine swing states, including Ohio, the nation's second-biggest producer of motor vehicles.
The Obama strategy seemed to find support in the latest stream of polling data.
A new CNN/Opinion Research poll showed Obama improving his numbers during the last month among key groups the campaign has targeted -- by as much as 5 percentage points among women and 7 percentage points among minorities, for example. He gained 3 percentage points among lower-income voters and independents, respectively. Overall, that poll showed Obama with a 49%-46% lead over the presumptive GOP nominee.
Polling in the states Obama will visit this week also favored the Democrat. Quinnipiac University data released last week had the president leading by 9 percentage points in Ohio and 6 percentage points in Pennsylvania.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that voters in battleground states -- the ones most exposed to campaign ads -- viewed Romney's business experience more negatively than voters nationwide or even voters in states that typically voted Democratic.
"Everybody knows what they think about Barack Obama. But Mitt Romney is still hazy in voters' minds," said Peter A. Brown, who supervises the Quinnipiac survey. "The president has benefited from the fact that he was much more prevalent on television. You cannot underestimate that."
It's an advantage that may not last through November, Brown noted.
The Romney team predicts it won't. An email Tuesday from the campaign to supporters and journalists was pithy, containing simply a collection of headlines that spelled bad news for U.S. wages and manufacturing.
A primary cause of the troubles, Romney aides say, is the healthcare law that survived Supreme Court review last week.
"Instead of helping jump-start our economy," spokeswoman Andrea Saul said, "President Obama stifled job creation with his job-killing healthcare bill."