(CNN) – Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday that President Barack Obama was “taken aback at the brazenness” of Mitt Romney’s departure from his past positions during their first debate. The Obama campaign will adjust accordingly for the next debate, he said.
“I think he was a little taken aback at the brazenness with which Gov. Romney walked away from so many of the positions on which he's run, walked away from his record,” Axelrod said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” He said the positions Romney took during Wednesday’s debate were “uprooted” from the Republican candidate’s previous positions.
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“That's something we’re going to have to make an adjustment for in these subsequent debates.”
“What happened was the president showed up with the intent of answering questions and having a discussion, an honest discussion about where we go as a country,” Axelrod said, though conceding that Romney had performed well.
Axelrod said Romney was dishonest during the debate, pointing to a contentious charge Obama waged Wednesday evening about his opponent’s tax plan involving $5 trillion in cuts for the wealthy - a claim CNN has rated as false.
“When he said he never proposed $5 trillion in tax cuts, that was dishonest,” said Axelrod, stopping short of saying the Republican challenger lied during the debate. “I'm saying that he was dishonest in his answers. You can characterize that any way you want.”
Republicans have pushed back on the president’s claim about $5 trillion in tax cuts, with Romney's team releasing an ad Sunday challenging the president's attacks and asserting the GOP nominee's tax plan would not add to the deficit.
Romney has said that his tax plan would close loopholes, though he has not specified which ones, and increase economic activity, resulting in increased federal government revenues.
Much to Democrats’ dismay, Obama did not use the proven-effective attack line about his opponent’s now-infamous “47%” comments. Axelrod explained that Obama didn’t see an “appropriate opportunity” to level the charge.
“The president was earnestly trying to answer questions that were asked on the topics that were being discussed, and he didn’t find the opportunity to raise it. And it’s obviously well known,” Axelrod said.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, a Democrat, also said Sunday that Romney was being dishonest during the first debate, but predicted that Obama would refute the GOP nominee’s claims and hammer home his own message in the next two presidential debates.
“I've never run for president, but you know, you have to decide - do you want to spend all your time, all night long, refuting someone's lies about your record or even about their own?” Nutter said on CNN’s "State of the Union.”