DENVER – After a lackluster performance by President Obama at the first 2012 presidential debate, senior strategist David Axelrod said today his team is “going to take a hard look at this and we’re going to have to make some judgments” about a new strategy going forward.
“We’re going to have to make some judgments about where to draw the lines in these debates and use our time,” Axelrod told reporters on a conference call. “It’s like playoffs in sports, after every game you make some adjustments … there are some strategic judgments that have to be made and we’ll make them.”
Such judgments could include accounting for “the fact that [Romney] is a serial evader, artful dodger,” Axelrod said on the call.
“The president hoped to avoid a situation where you had two politicians standing there insulting each other instead of offering ideas about the future of the country,” he said. “You have to strike a balance … you can’t let someone just stand there and manhandle the truth and not deal with that.”
Axelrod suggested that Obama had made a deliberate decision to avoid “serial fact-checking” Romney Wednesday night and instead try to stick to talking points about his economic vision. The approach was widely viewed, including by many of the president’s allies, as having fallen flat.
Asked why the president didn’t bring up the Romney’s infamous disparagement of “47 percent” of Americans or some of the other social issues Democrats have pushed, Axelrod said Obama was “focusing on the questions that were asked.”
As for the stylistic differences between the two men, Axelrod conceded that Romney had a great “performance” but that it was just that, an act.
“He may win the Oscar for his performance last night, but he’s not going to win the presidency on his performance last night,” he said.
Obama is “very, very eager for the next debate,” he said. “This was his first chance to see the Romney routine up close”
In the meantime, Team Obama plans a vigorous messaging campaign around a handful of issue areas on which they say Romney twisted his positions last night – tax cuts for the rich; preexisting conditions; voucher program for middle class
“His claims were well-delivered but fraudulent,” Axelrod said. “That’s going to be a hard pretense for him to keep up the next 30 days… one promise his campaign made was that they weren’t going to be constrained by fact checkers and that was on full display last night.”