'This Week' Transcript: David Axelrod

AXELROD: I really don't know. There was a poll out this week that showed him at the same 23 percent he's been throughout the race. Now, Herman Cain is leading the primary. The last poll, Rick Perry was leading it. Earlier, Michele Bachmann was doing very well. But Romney stays the same. Why? Because I think there's this question about what his core principles are.

He's been running for office for almost 20 years, for senator and governor of Massachusetts. Then he was a pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-environmental candidate for office. Then he decided to run for president, did a 180 on all of that. So time and time and time again, he shifts. And you get the feeling that there is no principle too large for him to throw over in pursuit of political office.

AMANPOUR: Where do you think it's going to come down? I know you said I don't know who we're going to face, but you've mentioned Bachmann and Perry and Cain. Do you think Cain is going to stay at the top?

AXELROD: You know, I don't know. I mean, if you were -- if as a political professional you'd look at it and you'd say there are two candidates who are likely to be competing at the end, and one would be Perry, and the other would be Romney, just based on the resources that they have. But this is a funny year, so I don't know.

AMANPOUR: You just mentioned a two-man race between Perry and Romney, and yet Perry seems to be sliding in the polls. You still think that he could be a contender?

AXELROD: Well, I've been around -- Christiane, I've been around this business a long time, and I know that, you know, it's a very dynamic process. So the candidates haven't fully engaged yet. I mean, Governor Perry has been less than impressive in these debates. And I think there's a general consensus about that. He just introduced a -- what he called a jobs plan. It was an energy plan that was basically a Xeroxed copy of the oil lobby's wish list for America.

But -- but nonetheless, he has a lot of resources. And he in his -- in his career has shone a penchant for going hard after his opponents. And -- and, you know, I think if I were Governor Romney, I'd be worried about all these changes in position and how that -- how that -- what kind of message that sends to voters, not just on the Republican side, but throughout the electorate.


AMANPOUR: President Obama's chief campaign strategist, David Axelrod. And you can find more of that interview at abcnews.com/thisweek.

AMANPOUR: Let's bring in our roundtable. With me today, George Will, Republican strategist Mary Matalin, Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, and ABC senior political correspondent Jonathan Karl.

Welcome, all of you. So, George, you saw that Axelrod really came down on Romney like a ton of bricks. Is this the man they think is going to be the nominee?

WILL: Oh, clearly. We're having a kind of Andy Warhol primary, where everyone is leader for 15 minutes, and it's Cain's turn today, but it's not clear that Cain has staying power. He's not running for president; he's sort of strolling for president without an infrastructure. It's pretty and cute and nice, but whether or not it works, we can be doubtful.

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