(CNN) – David Axelrod on Sunday defended a fund-raising push on behalf of President Barack Obama's re-election that played off the threat of a proposed Republican-backed ad plan that would have linked the president to comments made by his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.
Obama's campaign adviser said the pitch, which came in an e-mail to supporters, was necessary to combat super PACs behind Republican candidates and causes. He specifically mentioned an independent group supported by Karl Rove that launched a month-long $25 million ad buy last week.
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"We put out a fund-raising letter because we're facing about a billion dollars of super PAC spending," Axelrod said on CNN's "State of the Union." "Our average donation is like $55. It would take 181,000 of those donations to match the one anonymous donation that Karl Rove got. And that's why we went out and reached out to our folks, because we need to combat this kind of tactic."
The proposed plan in question, first reported by The New York Times on Thursday, was pitched to and later rejected by billionaire Joe Ricketts, according to the Ricketts-backed super PAC and the company responsible for the plan. According to the Times, the spot in question would have linked "Mr. Obama to incendiary comments by his former spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr." and would have been released around the Democratic National Convention.
Ricketts distanced himself from the proposal and Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, rejected the idea. But Axelrod said Romney did so "tepidly and reluctantly."
"The problem is you have to be consistent in your position, and you have to be genuine and firm in your position," Axelrod told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley after referencing a February interview in which Romney talked about Wright. "You can't be grudging in your position or you send the wrong signal. And I think he's sent the wrong signal."
Addressing the Times account on Thursday, Romney told reporters, "I repudiate that effort. I think it's the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign."
"I hope that our campaigns can respectfully be about the future and about issues and about a vision for America," he added.
On Sunday, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus accused Democrats and the president of perpetuating the story to avoid a discussion about the American economy.
"He wants this story to play out in the media, because for every day that David Axelrod and this president don't have to talk about their broken promises when it comes to jobs, the debt and the deficit, and the more time they can spend talking about hypotheticals that may or may not come true, is a day that they want to win on," Priebus said on CNN's "State of the Union," following Axelrod. "No matter what distractions he puts out there, he can't change the truth and escape the reality of where we are in this American economy - and it's no good."
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