December 13th, 2011
01:41 PM ET
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.
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.