Axelrod: Longer GOP primary helps Obama
Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod (Erika Dimmler/CNN)
December 13th, 2011
01:41 PM ET

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.

soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Page

    what a stupid commentry.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  2. jerry

    sure...yeah right. Nothing helps obama ast this point he has ran his course.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  3. Howard

    Most young people are so out of touch with having to show up at a job on a regular basis, it's pitiful. This is reinforced by a clueless President, who promotes class warfare, expectations of entitlement, and a socialist system, which creates dependency. In addition, our liberal educational community has demonized competition, and initiative ... while demanding pay raises and pensions, based upon tenure ( just showing up ... you know, like voting 'present 127 times) Newt Gingrich is right ... and, if we don't replace Obama with a real leader, who reestablishes reward for merit ... America is doomed !!!

    December 13, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • LBAM

      Howard, youseem to be one of those people who constantly vote against your best interest. I hope that you"ll learn the hard way, by losing your job and have no health insurance. I hope that for the next three years, you will not get a pay raise and Must pay more for your health insurance. America is doomed because of people like you who constantly live in the bubble you do.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • liberties101

      I agree that if we stay this course we are doomed. However niether Newt or Romney are the right answer. They will both shepherd in disaster just as Obama is doing. The only candidate worth the time is Ron Paul. If he doesn't win the nomination I'm writing him in.

      December 14, 2011 at 3:34 am |
      • Trace


        Have you ever heard "Ron Paul Will Never be President"? I'd bet you have. They say the for a reason. You may not like Obama, certainly I don't agree with everything he's done, but he is steady and he has tried to be bipartisan.

        So accepting the fact Ron Paul will never become president, we rational thinking americans would appreciate you libertarians join our team.

        Have a nice day

        December 14, 2011 at 9:18 am |
  4. jim

    Axledick and Obama have been the butt of many jokes from people around the country. Speaking of monkeys where's Jarrett?

    December 13, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Trace


      You sound like an ex-girlfriend after things have broken off. Geesh dude.....
      Obama and Axelrod may have jokes being made about them all around the country......But Any of the GOP/Tea candidates if ever elected, would be Jokes around the world....Just Like Bushrod Jr.

      December 14, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  5. Jim

    Drivel. The longer the primary battle continues, the more attention is drawn to the GOP positions. The Obama-Clinton primary fight was key in the Dem victory in 2008. The same will be true for the GOP nominee. However, the quality of the GOP field is highly suspect, with all the candidates except Huntsman with heavy, hate-filled baggage or inconsistencies. Don't for a moment think that Amerika would not gladly elect an outspoken bigot.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  6. junior

    It would be hilarious if Newt would be able to close the deal by March. Romney, not sure how you do not realize that most people see you as more boring that a rock laying on the ground. Newt while far from perfect is hated by the old-get-along republican politicians. The same ones the Tea Party class of 2010 came to replace. It would be a mistake to consider Newt a Taliban Conservative, but he is undeniably and economy/national conservative a la Regan; this is good enough for most republicans…social conservative? Probably not so much

    December 13, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  7. Obamasux1

    Wish David Axelrod would do this country a favor and hold his breath for 20 minutes

    December 13, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • Trace

      I thought that same thing about Karl Rove and I would say the majority of americans would feel the same. My guess is loved all the idiocy of the previous administration, when it has been proven a complete failure. My guess (again) is you voted for Bush Jr twice.

      So, we are suppose to believe you know your hat from your overcoat because why......??????

      December 14, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  8. SeattleSally

    The GOP needs to stop looking for a hero, the way the dems approached 2008, and look for a viable, long term leader.
    Axelrod is kind of creepy...the kind of guy who gives politics a bad name!

    December 14, 2011 at 8:27 am |
  9. steveo

    This story and those similar (one side talking about the viability of the other side) is to be taken with a grain of salt. The bias is so thick, you can almost smell it. Axelrod is just saying what the Dems need him to say!

    December 14, 2011 at 9:41 am |
  10. JimSim

    Anyone want to take a guess what would happen if Carl Rove referred to Obama or Holder as a monkey? Liberals are so blind that guys like Axelrod don't even have to think about what they say. Hypocrites.

    December 14, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  11. Gus Harley

    Your as wacko as Debie Wasserman Shultz who still thinks Obama has improved the unemployment rate since he took office. Wake up folks it was 7.8% when BO took office.

    December 14, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  12. Gus Harley

    It will be a long path for sure.

    December 14, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  13. toto

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. There would no longer be a handful of 'battleground' states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in more than 3/4ths of the states that will just be 'spectators' and ignored.

    When the bill is enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes– enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for president. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%,, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions possessing 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.


    December 14, 2011 at 3:40 pm |