Democratic officials said Townsend's voter-mobilization plan and advertising efforts are sound - despite nagging concerns about her campaign's management and what is seen as a lack of support from some party leaders such as Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.
Maryland Democrats met in Washington on Tuesday for a campaign planning session; such sessions are held every two years, after the primary. But this year's meeting came with an air of urgency: Townsend has slipped behind Ehrlich in the latest polls, a double-digit lead erased even with advantages in money, name identification and party registration. Still, top elected officials say they can pull ahead before Nov. 5.
"I think it's winnable," said Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. "Once [Townsend] starts comparing her vision with Bob's, it will make a difference. She may not be there yet, but we have seven weeks left."
"The campaign is taking a significant turn for the better," said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings.
O'Malley - who considered entering the primary for governor - insists he has endorsed Townsend. Others disagree.
"He knows what an endorsement is," Mikulski said. "An endorsement requires an endorsement. It's not like, 'I would support the Democratic nominee.'"
Townsend said yesterday that reports of a campaign in disarray are exaggerated.
"He is on the wrong side of the issues. I am determined to make that clear in the next few weeks of the campaign," she said. "It is very clear he doesn't want to talk about his record. He wants to talk about his childhood, how he won scholarships to college and then when he gets to Congress, he votes to cut them. He pulls the ladder up when he gets success."
Other Democrats agreed yesterday that Townsend's challenge is to give voters a better sense of her positions.
"The Democratic campaign for governor is not clear what its message is," said Del. Michael E. Busch of Anne Arundel County. "The real question is, is Kathleen Kennedy Townsend up to the task, and what is she going to do if she's elected governor? The other portion is, [voters] don't know enough about Ehrlich."
Busch said top party figures such as Mikulski and Hoyer must play a larger role, with no finger-pointing at Townsend.
"I wouldn't even bring Kathleen into it," Busch said. "I'd have those people together and say, 'What are you going to do to produce?' They can't lay it all on her. They have to be out there every night moving votes."