While Rick Santorum was tormenting limping GOP front-runner Mitt Romney by winning Alabama and Mississippi, President Obama's campaign touted a new poll that said Romney could win it all this November.
Campaign manager Jim Messina sent an email to supporters quoting a new Washington Post/ABC News poll that showed Romney leading Obama 49 percent to 47 percent.
"If the general election were held today, President Obama would lose to Mitt Romney," Messina wrote at 9:54 p.m. ET. "Now, many other polls put the President on top, but all point to the same reality: We're looking at a race that will be tighter than you think."
Only hours before, White House officials dismissed the Post poll and a New York Times/CBS survey that showed Obama's approval rating dropping from 50 percent to 41 percent in one month as faulty and unreliable. Despite this, Messina turned that skepticism into a direct fund-raising appeal.
"If the idea of a President Romney scares you, it's time to own a piece of this campaign," Messina wrote, seeking donations of $3 or more.
The email not only conflicted with White House derision of the Post and Times polls, it touted Romney as the likely nominee amid two stinging Southern defeats. Romney finished third in Alabama and Mississippi, deflating results that will yield some delegates but intensify the sense that Romney's grip on the nomination - never solid to begin with - is slipping.
Messina cautioned that Obama supporters "must not overreact to any one poll." That declaration came when it may be difficult for Romney and his supporters not to overreact to two bruising defeats.