'This Week' Transcript: David Axelrod

They've clearly decided that Romney is the problem. And they have a problem with Romney, because they're not going to run on their record -- because the record isn't particularly appetizing. Therefore, they're going to run on the fitness of the Republican candidate. And I think precisely because -- how do we say this -- Romney has shown a certain versatility of conviction over the years, it's hard to nail him down.

AMANPOUR: Versatility of conviction, Mary. That is quite a nice way of saying what George was trying to say. Do you think the White House is right to be focusing on Romney? Do you think that they've got the right man there?

MATALIN: I think they're doing everything to not focus on their own guy. They don't want this to be what a natural re-election is, which is a referendum on the incumbent. And what Axelrod's doing is political algebra. He thinks if he strikes core convictions from one side, he'll strike it from the other.

Obama has no core convictions that when he governs, he governs as an unreconstructed liberal. The worst you can say about Romney and his conviction is that he's an accommodationist, which means he bends to political will. I think people right now would rather see a president responsive to the political will than this president who operated government and jammed through things that were against the country's will.

AMANPOUR: But whether it's a referendum on the president or not, do you think that the candidate will be Romney? Or do you think it'll be Perry?

MATALIN: George makes a very good point. We are in a very sliver of a phase here on the debates. If you go to the states, go to the board, you go to Perry's other strengths. He's raised over $17 million in under 50 days. You go to Iowa, South Carolina. He has very strong on-the-ground operations. He has state senators, state reps, county chairmen. He has Christie supporters, Romney supporter, former Romney, Pawlenty supporters. He's solid on the ground in all the states. Even in New Hampshire, he's got the former GOP state chairman.

KARL: Yeah, I mean, there's this sense that Perry is done, that this is all inevitable.

MATALIN: No way.

KARL: Certainly the White House believes that. The White House is going at Romney right now. And watch this. They will do this, because it's an unfair fight right now. Romney is defending himself against these attacks from his Republican opponents. The White House sees this as the time to define Romney, but it's crazy to count out Perry. He's got more money in the bank right now than Romney. He's got far more organization than Herman Cain. The national polls don't mean anything. In those early states, with the exception of New Hampshire, he's looking strong. So we'll see.

MARCUS: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

AMANPOUR: No, go ahead.

MARCUS: Perry, I agree. He's like Monty Python's parrot. He's not dead yet, and for all the reasons that you said. Romney's problem, I think, is, first of all, the versatility that George so nicely mentioned. Also, he's the ultimate establishment candidate in a very anti-establishment year. You see it from the Wall Street protests. You see it from the Tea Party. He by all rights should be really, at the very least, inching up in these polls, and because he's a way better candidate than he was four years ago. And he's not. I suspect he eventually will, but it really is telling.

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