O adviser’s revealing remark
- Last Updated: 4:17 AM, April 17, 2012
- Posted: 10:21 PM, April 16, 2012
On Sunday, the most important person in the Obama campaign aside from President Obama himself inadvertently gave the 2012 game away in one of the more revealing political moments of our lifetimes.
David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist, deserves enormous credit for having fashioned one of the most brilliant national campaigns in American history in 2008. But that was then, and this is now — and now Axelrod has gone on “Fox News Sunday” and offered the best and most succinct case for a Romney presidency yet.
“The choice in this election,” said Axelrod, “is between an economy that produces a growing middle class and that gives people a chance to get ahead and their kids a chance to get ahead and an economy that continues down the road we are on.”
Of course, the overseer of the “road we are on,” the man whose policy it has been to intervene directly and repeatedly in the economic affairs of the American people, is Obama.
If the election in November is a referendum on “an economy that continues down the road we are on,” with 66 percent of the American people telling pollsters they think the country is on the wrong track, Obama will lose. This isn’t a line of argument Obama and his people want to pursue. So why did Axelrod say it?
I’d guess it was a moment of weakness. As Shakespeare’s Henry IV said, “The wish is father to the thought.”
Axelrod’s mind-boggling description of the current reality — in which, he said, “A fewer and fewer number of people do very well, and everybody else is running faster and faster just to keep pace” — suggests he desperately wishes he and Obama were back in 2008.
That was the year of “Yes, we can,” and “We are the change we have been looking for,” not a year in which he’ll have to ask for a second term after nearly four years of his own national stewardship.
Axelrod knows how to run Obama as the candidate of change. His words suggest he doesn’t know how to run Obama as the candidate of the status quo.
Who can blame him? He’s been dealt a difficult hand.
Axelrod’s nostalgia for the recent past is understandable. He helped achieve something revolutionary in 2008 that literally changed the world. Every great political campaign rewrites the rules; devising a new way to win is what gives campaigns a comparative advantage against their foes. Axelrod & Co. did that in both the primary and the general election with stunning success.
In the Democratic primary in 2008, the Obama team devised a strategy to use the caucuses and a complicated system of awarding delegates in the state primaries to sneak up on Hillary Clinton and establish a lead Obama never surrendered.
In the national election, Axelrod and his people made it feel as though Obama had already been elected president by the time the Democratic convention had wrapped up with a rock-star tour of Europe, a podium designed to look like the presidential seal and a speech delivered among papier-mâché Greek columns in a football stadium.
Obama’s victory in November 2008 was a historic political accomplishment.
Obama’s re-election will have to be historic as well, given the current portents — with recent economic news suggesting there won’t be a full-blooded recovery under way when he faces voters in November.
Obama will have to win with an unemployment rate conventionally considered a re-election death knell and, in ObamaCare, a signature piece of legislation that is rather startlingly unpopular — and that will either be allowed to stand by the Supreme Court or overturned. Both possible futures present serious hazards for Obama.
To be sure, he has the benefit of a problematic opponent in Mitt Romney. But one thing Romney has going for him is that he doesn’t have to run as the guy who managed the country from 2009 until the present. Barack Obama does, even though David Axelrod wishes it were otherwise.Follow @NYPostOpinion