Axelrod: Longer GOP primary helps Obama
December 13th, 2011
01:28 PM ET
3 years ago

Axelrod: Longer GOP primary helps Obama

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama's top re-election campaign advisers predict that an extended Republican primary battle will produce a weakened GOP nominee, and that a longer process could drain the independent Republican super PACs of much of their money.

And while top officials continue to focus most of their fire on former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, one of them did compare new GOP front-runner and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to the rear end of a monkey.

Asked if Gingrich can sustain his front-runner over time, senior Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod said "I told my colleagues yesterday a bit of homespun wisdom that I got from an alderman in Chicago some years ago when one of his colleagues wanted to run for higher office and he was really dubious. He said, 'just remember the higher a monkey climbs on a pole, the more you can see his butt.' So, you know, the Speaker is very high on the pole right now and we'll see how people like the view."

Axelrod also described Gingrich's economic proposals as "far more radical than Romney's," and says if the former House speaker wins the nomination, there's plenty of material in Gingrich's record to use against him in a general election.

His comments came Tuesday as the top Obama campaign officials briefed political reporters in Washington on the campaign's strategy to win the 270 electoral votes needed for re-election next year.

While both the re-election team in Chicago and the Democratic National Committee here in the nation's capitol continue to hammer Romney, Gingrich is beginning to come more and more into their sites.

Last week, in an appearance on CNN, Axelrod described Gingrich as the "Godfather of Gridlock," adding that "I don't think there's any single person in this country that did more to create the kind of discord in Washington that we see today than Newt Gingrich."

Axelrod says that a battle between Gingrich and Romney would hurt rather than help the GOP, adding that "the longer this race goes the more you are going to see these Republican candidates mortgage their general election campaign to win the nomination."

The long nomination battle between then Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008 in the end was beneficial to the Democrats, building enthusiasm and helping Obama eventually win the White House. But the re-election campaign says it's a different story this time around for the Republicans.

"The difference here is that we weren't being tugged to a poll in our party. We weren't being tugged to the left in our party. They're being tugged to the right every day," says Axelrod. "I think the longer the race goes, the more they (the GOP candidates) are going to do that (scramble to the right) and the harder it is to scramble back. That wasn't the case in our primary."

The past two weeks have seen a surge in negative attacks between the Republican White House hopefuls and their teams, which the Obama advisers say is dragging down the GOP image.

"None of that is helpful to them. I think it's defining their party in a negative way."

Axelrod says another consequence of an extended nomination battle is that the independent super PACs that are supporting the leading GOP candidates may have depleted funds by the time the general election rolls around, saying that "a lot of that money may be deployed before they ever get to us, deployed in those primaries."

The Obama campaign team also touted that they have an organizational advantage over Republicans, adding that they have more staffers on the ground than the GOP even in Iowa, where the Republican caucus is just three weeks away.

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said his team has had about one million telephone conversations with supporters and about 90,000 person-to-person meetings with volunteers since the president launched his re-election bid in April.

"Having [a] ground [game] matters and the other side doesn't have that ground [game] and eventually this will turn into a turnout game and a persuasion game and so far they have shown no ability to grow that kind of organization," added Messina

Two groups that they plan to heavily target: Latino voters who they believe will be alienated by the rhetoric of the Republican candidates and the 8 million people who were too young to vote for Obama in 2008.

Messina outlined five paths to re-election victory that would build upon the states that Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry won in the 2004 contest. The western path calls for winning Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, as well as Iowa. The Florida path calls for taking the Sunshine state, the biggest prize among the battleground states. The southern path has Obama winning North Carolina and Virginia, while the Midwest path counts on victories in Ohio and Iowa. An expansion path looks to take Arizona from the GOP.

All the paths would put Obama over the 270 electoral votes needed to win a second term in the White House. Messina says that the campaign has not picked any one of the five paths.


Filed under: 2012 • David Axelrod • President Obama
soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. ThinkAgain

    He's right; it does. The more the American public know about this pack of GOP losers, the less they like them.

    Obama 2012

    December 13, 2011 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  2. diridi

    David, you think Americans are idiots? No way, they know GOP is so idiotic, and messed this nation. They know These GOP for Rich, Oil thugs, and Corporate idiots. So it does not matter. I already made up my mind to vote all GOP thugs out of office. I am voting for Obama and Direct Democratic ticket. Period.

    December 13, 2011 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  3. Lynda/Minnesota

    This whole Republican primary season screwed itself. Who ever thought that having one debate after another would benefit the candidates, anyway? Especially this group of candidates? Each debate makes all of them look more damaged than the debate before. With that in mind, I hope the Republican primary process continues on it's long and winding road for as long as the Democratic primary was forced to do in 2008. God knows, the laughs are worth it.

    December 13, 2011 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  4. Phil in KC

    It sounds like Axelrod will be the campaign's 'attack dog'. But he does have a point. Not about the monkey's butt. I won't go there. But I think the rest is just logic. They have to fight to get to the nomination, so that is going to use up a bunch of capital – money the Democrats won't have to spend. And, while Newt has promised to keep it positive (we'll see how long he keeps that promise), there will be plenty of mud flying among the Republicans. That can only serve to tarnish the eventual nominee's image. Last, the Republican activists are very right-wing. Democrats tend to be left-wing. But, without having to play to that part of the party, Obama can focus on more centrist positions, which will help him with the critical independent/moderate vote. So I think Axelrod is spot on there. I'm just hoping the voting public pays attention to what's really going on, instead of adopting an automatic "vote the bums out" mentality. That's very short-sighted and irrational.

    December 13, 2011 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  5. cali girl

    It will be a GOP knock down, drag out fight. We Obama supporters will just have to sit back and watch the melee. The last debate which included childish 'bets" of 10K, sounds just like the whining that is typical of the rebugs. Bring on the popcorn, I am totally ready to watch this fiasco.

    December 13, 2011 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  6. Squigman

    I'll vote for a member of the GOP, when I've lost all ability to think or complete a thought. It'll never happen.

    December 13, 2011 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC

    Nice picture you painted there with the pole climbing remark, Mr. Axelrod. I have never experienced laughing and turning green at the same time before. I liked your "Grandfather of Gridlock" remark, too. I've been keeping a list, and checking it twice, of such things. Here's a sampling of few of the ones that I have already released into the public domain.

    "Uncle Shutdown"
    "Contract without America"
    "Status Quo Candidate"
    "Not Gingrich"

    December 13, 2011 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  8. Four and The Door

    Actually, the thing that hurts your candidate Obama even more is when he goes on Prime Time TV to get beat up by Steve Kroft on 60 minutes. His performance was RickPerryesque. He tried some parable about a captain of the boat in rough seas and people are getting sick and at the end I was like," Okay. What was the point of that?"

    December 13, 2011 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  9. Jake

    it's true that Obama could take a hit with Ohio and PA, where the economic outlook is most grim; but I predict Obama will not only hold onto Florida and North Carolina, but he will also pick up South Carolina AND Arizona! here comes a landslide for progress!

    December 13, 2011 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  10. anagram_kid

    It is definitely good for Obama, but in the end it is bad for the rest of the nation and to some extent the world. Once the bar is lowered it tends to stay lowered until a radical event causes everyone to put things in perspective. Hopefully when the Republicans lose this [presidential election along with their majority in the house they will take a good hard look at how low they have fallen and finally rid themselves of the Limbaughs, Coulters, Palins, evangelicals and others that do nothing to advance a civilized society. I am not saying that the left does not have its share of extremists, but they are not causing the stunning losses the Republican/Tea Party is going to see if they continue to pander to the far right.

    December 13, 2011 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  11. Four and The Door

    Rudy NYC
    ..."Uncle Shutdown"
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________
    Hey, I got one for Obama too.

    Doctor Downgrade. ( Don't look for any babies, but he will deliver plenty of debt! )

    December 13, 2011 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  12. Enough is Enough

    It keeps the spotlight off his incompetence.

    December 13, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  13. Is Axelrod reading the chrystal-ball...?

    Come off Axelrod you are no wizzard or the Oz...just pure politcal goo-goo..!

    December 13, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  14. ST

    Let us all give GOP voters a credit. They are so clever that they are not going for "bad goods" once they are well informed about the candidate. Quite impressive!

    December 13, 2011 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  15. NC

    @Four and the door. President Obama does not mud wrestle like the republicans do during their debates. He does not need to beat up on Steve Kroft. Remember President Obama is already President, not a mudslinger.

    December 13, 2011 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  16. Woman In California

    As an Obama supporter, I'm surprised at some of Mr. Axelrod's comments. They might have been a bit much.....

    December 13, 2011 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  17. Gurgi

    @diridi, fortunately your vow to "vote all GOP thugs out of office," is a non-starter and does not matter, in that you and the other brainwashed far left people would never vote GOP in the first place.

    December 13, 2011 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  18. Gurgi

    @NC, but obama did sling plenty of mud to become president.

    December 13, 2011 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  19. Lynda/Minnesota

    @Four and the door:

    God you're funny. No wonder then, that whenever I read a comment from you I keep hearing the nursery tune "the wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round". Thanks for the laughs.

    December 13, 2011 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  20. Independent Voters

    Newt will not win the presidency he have to much baggage in the past.
    Obama wil win by landslide 2012

    December 13, 2011 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  21. GROVER NORQUIST IS A ENEMY OF THE STATE

    The longer these primaries drag out, the more incompetant and out of touch the republican candidates look. 10k bets? Really?!?!? What average American you know that can come up out of there pocket with 10k like voila?

    December 13, 2011 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC

    Four and The Door wrote:

    Hey, I got one for Obama too.
    Doctor Downgrade. ( Don't look for any babies, but he will deliver plenty of debt! )
    -----------–
    Originality is not one of your strong suits is it, Padawan? But, hey. Imitation is the ultimate form of flattery.

    December 13, 2011 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    "Actually, the thing that hurts your candidate Obama even more is when he goes on Prime Time TV to get beat up by Steve Kroft on 60 minutes. His performance was RickPerryesque."

    I actually watched that and your description does nothing but reveal your confirmatin bias. It was a sort of dull interview that contained no real journalistic effort on the part of the interviewer and a fairly average performance by Obama other than the one spot where he clearly and unmistakably laid out the GOP's/Teatrolls' strategy of obstruction, breaking gov't and hostage taking...refusal to actively and honestly particiapate in governing while "sitting on the sidelines". In any event, there was no "beating up" of Obama on 60 MInutes. If you think so, you're reading too much into it to assuage your expectations and preconceptions.

    December 13, 2011 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  24. patNY

    While it may be neck and neck now between Obama and Romney and Obama and Gingrinch, so much can and will happen between now and Nov 2012, including the final Republican nominee and the impact his VP pick will have on his ticket. And don't forget about the inevitable October surprise, whether it happens before that or not...like an attack from Iran, or a preemptive attack by us against Iran stemming from their refusal to give back our drone.

    December 13, 2011 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  25. Scott O' Canada

    This is priceless. somewhere between the rhetoric and the propaganda lays an unintentional irony. The GOP snake has started to feed upon itself, and by the time the dust settles all those in the party whose only agenda was to ruin the Obama adminstrations efforts to do anything at all will be too mortally wounded to succeed at anything. Willing to wager that almost half the Republicans will sit and watch the upcoming general elections from the sidelines.

    December 13, 2011 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
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