Washington (CNN) – In the wake of Mitt Romney's two disappointing losses in Mississippi and Alabama on Tuesday, behind-the-scenes frustration about the state of his campaign among leading Republicans is once again trickling out.
With Romney's message seemingly consumed with delegate math, arguments about electability and attacks against his chief rival Rick Santorum, some of his supporters are asking the candidate to re-calibrate his strategy and make a stronger case to voters about why he deserves to be president.
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Even before the results trickled in Tuesday and showed a possible win in Mississippi slipping away, the calls for Romney to enhance his campaign message were already breaking through.
"Note to Mitt R: please, please, please stop talking delegate counts and process!!" tweeted veteran Republican strategist Mike Murphy, a former Romney adviser. "Run for POTUS not county Rep party chairman."
The sentiment was echoed Wednesday morning by Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott, a leading Romney backer who called on the former governor to articulate in greater detail his specific accomplishments in Massachusetts and in the private sector.
Lott pointed to Newt Gingrich's recent focus on lowering the cost of gasoline as an example of how the candidate might drive a message tailored to the pocketbook concerns of everyday citizens.
"Newt has been like a dog with a bone over gasoline prices," Lott told CNN. "Romney needs to focus more on the consistency of a positive message. What's the number one thing people are concerned about? The economy and jobs."
The advice from Chris Devaney, the chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, was straightforward: Romney "needs to be himself."
Devaney recalled sitting in on a private lunch with Romney and Nashville business leaders two years ago at Vanderbilt University.
Romney, he said, seemed at ease and made an impressive case as to how he would use his experience running Bain Capital and managing Salt Lake City Olympic Games to turn around the economy.
"I think if he got back to doing that, I think he would probably have more success," Devaney said. "I think he needs to focus more on what his strengths are: being a strong business person, being good on the economy and just being himself."
The latest round of Romney head-scratching might not have come about had a few thousand votes in Mississippi broken his way on Tuesday night.
While the Romney campaign did no private polling in the state, public surveys showed that Mississippi offered the best chance for Romney to capture a symbolic victory in the south and put to rest the troublesome narrative that he can't connect with the Republican base.
Romney lined up support from top Republican officials including Gov. Phil Bryant and barnstormed the state proclaiming his newfound respect for grits and catfish.
Lott said while he and other Romney supporters had been optimistic about Mississippi, election results showed that Romney had problems with Baptists and Pentacostal voters in rural parts of the state who are "still very leery of the Mormon faith."
He also said Romney and his allied super PAC miscalculated by showering voters with negative ads and phone calls.
"You better be very careful in Mississippi if you go negative," Lott said. "It tends to backfire."
Henry Barbour, a veteran party operative in Mississippi and a member of the Republican National Committee, told CNN that Romney's insistent focus on his electability in the general election can only take him so far in the heated context of a Republican primary.
"The reason Santorum won is he is perceived as the most conservative," said Barbour, a Romney supporter. "Primaries in Mississippi are more driven by ideology than electability. Electability is not enough. It takes more than that. You've got to lay out your conservative bona fides. And Romney has them, but the people don't know them."
Despite the nagging questions about his candidacy, more than a dozen Romney supporters and financial backers who spoke to CNN in the wake of Tuesday's votes expressed confidence that he will ultimately capture the nomination based on his robust lead in delegates and his superior organization.
"There is no sense of panic or angst, I just wish it was it a little smoother ride," said one well-connected Romney supporter who did not want to be named. "The tone is more of frustration rather than anything else. It's not real concern. We're going to get there."
Jim Talent, a former Missouri senator and one of Romney's most loyal surrogates, defended his candidate from the criticism about his campaign message.
He said if people are concerned that Romney is not projecting a presidential air on the trail, they aren't listening to his speeches that include both economic proposals and paeans to American exceptionalism.
"I don't know what else you can do about going big, other than what he is doing on the stump," Talent told CNN. "I think he is right in not going so big that he's not talking about the economy. The economy is clearly the number one issue. He has gotten that across. That's working."