Media offers questions, advice to top Obama campaign strategist

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Surrounded by whooping Republicans and suddenly unfavorable data, chief Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod called in the media cavalry today.

And several reporters on the 11:15 a.m. phone conference promptly offered questions that bordered on advice.

“Axe, I’m not sure you can hear me, David,” said NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, when she was invited to ask a question Oct. 4.

“I’m wondering whether the president, whether you have rethought the strategy of not bringing up either women’s issues, or the 47 percent or some of the other issues that have worked so well for you in your campaign advertising and in your stump speech?”

“I understand that there are a lot — particularly our supporters … who would have liked him to have, you know, entered into the record Bain, the tax returns and certainly the 47 percent” issues, Axelrod replied.

Early in the conference, “Axe” urged the reporters to investigate Romney’s statements during his win at the Denver debate against President Barack Obama.

“We are going to hold Gov. Romney accountable for the things he said last night … as I hope you will make him justify those claims, because we need a honest and a genuine and realistic plan to move forward as a country … not just a bunch of lines designed to get you through a debate.”

“Thanks very much for doing this everyone,” said the Washington Post’s Scott WIlson when he was invited to ask a question.

“Just to focus again on the president’s performance last night, you all have read some of the reviews — he appeared listless, distracted, annoyed at times. Will you be talking to him about that?”

“I’m not a theater critic. … He didn’t do it perhaps as much as Gov. Romney did as a performance, I readily concede that,” responded Axelrod.

But, he reassured Wilson, “I’m sure he will consider his approach moving forward, but I know he’s very very eager for the next debate on the 16th.”

“Hi guys, thanks for doing this,” said Sam Stein, a reporter at the Huffington Post.

“One of the things that has some Democrats that I’m talking to kind of perplexed is Obama’s statement last night, ‘I suspect that on Social Security we’ve got a somewhat similar position,'” he said. “Is it the campaign’s belief that the two candidates have a somewhat similar position on Social Security?”

“I’m not sure what Gov. Romney’s position is, but I know what his running mate’s position was, which is that we should privatize the Social Security system,” Axelrod replied. “The president wouldn’t support that at all.”

“Axe, this is Ben, can you hear me?” asked Ben Feller, AP correspondent. “Is it the view of the president that he actually did a good job in a crisp, coherent way of communicating with the American people?”

“I think that while Gov. Romney had a very crisp performance, both candidates got points across,” Axe reassured Feller. “Both candidates got something out the debate.”

But, he added, “you know, his choice was to talk about the things that people were worried about in their own mind, and that’s what he did.”

The questions offered during the today’s joint White House and campaign press conference included a similar mix of questions and advice.

“Do you think that the President missed an opportunity to make the points he made today in Denver, and presumably will in Wisconsin, on that stage in front of a much wider audience?” said a reporter during the event, which took place at 1:15 p.m. MDT, aboard Air Force One.

The transcript does not identify the reporters who asked the questions.

“Is the president going to be tougher next time?  Are we going to see a different — Ax talked about sort of a shift and looking at strategies. Is he going to be a little bit tougher next time?”

“Was the decision not to mention either Bain or 47 percent a deliberate one?  Or was it just a case where time ran out and he might well have raised it had there been another 10 minutes?”

“You said some weeks ago that one of Mitt Romney’s strengths as a debater was his willingness to lie with ease. Was the President adequately prepared to call him out on that last night?”

“But did [Obama] go too far, the steadiness, his not being aggressive? Was that an over-compensation perhaps?”

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