President Obama's top political adviser David Axelrod said the result of the Massachusetts Senate special election shows that "it's very clear people don't want us to walk away from health care."
Appearing on "This Week," Axelrod said a poll in yesterday's Washington Post showed that voters in Massachusetts want Sen.-elect Scott Brown "to come and work with us and not be obstructionist."
House and Senate Democrats are scrambling to figure out how to pick up the pieces of health care reform legislation after Republican Scott Brown's victory last Tuesday. Brown will soon take the Senate seat that the late Ted Kennedy held for 46 years.
Democrats have been sending a mixed message about how to proceed on health care reform in the wake of the election. Some Democrats, such as Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, have called for a "pause" while turning their attention to jobs. Others argue that Democrats should press ahead.
This weekend Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met to try to figure out how to salvage the effort. Axelrod sent his own warning to wavering Democrats. "As a political matter," he told "This Week," "the foolish thing to do would be for anybody else who supported this to walk away from it because what's happened is, this thing's been defined by insurance company -- insurance industry propaganda, the propaganda of the opponents and an admittedly messy process leading up to it."
Axelrod said voter angst a year after Obama took office was expected.
"I said to him a year ago, 'Mr. President, your numbers are going to be considerably worse a year from now than they are today, because you can't govern in an economy like this without great disaffection,' and that's -- and that's what's happened."
And he said he has "no regrets" when reflecting on Obama's aggressive agenda during his first year.
"Nobody wanted to have to throw a lifeline to the financial sector. Nobody wanted to shore up the auto industry. Nobody wanted a $787 billion emergency Recovery Act as our first initiative as president," Axelrod said. "But the -- but our responsibility was to make sure that the economy didn't tip into a second Great Depression, which was a real possibility. But those were not popular things to do."
"I have no regrets about that. I think history will look back and say the president of the United States met his responsibility."
But he did concede the eight-month debate over health care reform "were less than satisfying."
"If you look at the polls out of Massachusetts, people reacted as much to the process as anything else. Were there things we could have done there? Perhaps. We have to think that through."
During a "This Week" Senate debate, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., railed against the president's economic policies, declaring that Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts "was a rejection of the president's massive policies of spending and debt."
The junior senator insisted that "the president's stimulus has been a massive failure." He tied the prospect of working with Democrats to their economic policies. "We're not going to have bipartisanship if the Democrats are just moving towards more spending and debt," DeMint said.
DeMint later said the president was "steamrolling the American people," saying he thinks Americans feel like Obama hasn't been listening to them.
Joining DeMint in the debate was Sen. Robert Menendez, D- N.J., the man in charge of holding on to a democratic majority in the Senate, who said the "biggest takeaway from Massachusetts is that there is enormous economic angst in the country."
The chair of Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee insisted that the DSCC "did everything we could in resources, in personnel to help Martha Coakley win that election" in Massachusetts.
This week, in a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court ruled the government may not ban political spending by corporations in elections.
DeMint lauded the decision, saying "we can't promote freedom and democracy by repressing free speech." But he did allow for the possibility that restrictions might be needed on political donations on foreign corporations.
"Right now, foreigners cannot give to the political process. And I hope, as this thing is sorted out, that we'll make sure that this is an American focus," DeMint said.
"The problem is, a corporation is a corporation is a corporation," Menendez said. "And a foreign corporation is going to be able to spend their monies in determining who is elected to the United States Congress. That's not good for the average citizen."
Menendez, who vociferously opposed the Supreme Court ruling, said that the justices' decision would "put enormous amounts of money and influence on behalf of big oil, health insurance companies, big banks" into the political system.