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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Axelrod Says Obama Will Review Tape of Debate


As senior adviser for the Obama campaign, David Axelrod, knows that his public criticisms of the boss should be exceedingly rare, and oh-so-gently worded when they do come. But he made it clear on Sunday, however indirectly, that President Obama was less than thrilled by his debate performance on Wednesday and that he would be making some changes.

“I think the president understands â€" the president is his harshest critic,” Mr. Axelrod said on CBS's “Face the Nation.”

Mr. Obama has nine days to prepare for his next debate against Mitt Romney, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. Among the many criticisms the president faced after the first debate was a stylistic one â€" that he spent too much time looking down at his notes or away from his opponent, making him appear disengaged.

Mr. Axelrod tried to explain that â€" “I think the president was taking notes on what was being said because he wanted to make sure that he was responsive” - before adding, “He'll look at that tape and he'll make the adjustments that he thinks are necessary.”

But Mr. Axelrod did not miss a chance to lambaste Mr. Romney's performance â€" as Obama aides have been doing since the Denver encounter on Wednesday â€" as theatrical and at times fundamentally misleading.

Suggesting that Mr. Obama had expected, and prepared for, a more substantive debate, Mr. Axelrod said, “I think he went thinking that this was going to be a discussion about the country's future, and he was confronted by this kind of Gantry-esque performance on the other side, just serially rewriting history.”

The program's moderator, Bob Schieffer, stopped Mr. Axelrod for clarification.

Yes, Mr. Axelrod said, he was referring to Elmer Gantry, the title character in a book â€" banned in Boston when published in 1927 â€" and later a movie about a charismatic, fast-talking, but deeply dishonest street preacher. Mr. Axelrod apparently was overlooking Mr. Gantry's hard-drinking ways; Mr. Romney is a Mormon.

Regardless, to Romney supporters, such talk is sour grapes.

“The Obama campaign, they remind me a little bit of a 7-year-old losing a checker game, and then instead of being frustrated at the outcome, they sweep the board off the table,” said Ed Gillespie, a senior adviser to the Romney campaign

If the Republican challenger managed to put in a stronger debate performance, he said on ABC's “This Week,” it “was not a matter of style, it was a matter of substance.”

Mr. Gillespie argued that Mr. Romney put forward “a fact-based critique of President Obama's failed policies that the president was unable to respond to.”