Axelrod Jabs Gingrich: ‘Higher a Monkey Climbs … More You Can See His Butt’

Newt Gingrich has joked that God wanted him to be a bear, not a gazelle. But President Obama's chief campaign strategist David Axelrod today said Gingrich is more like a monkey.

Speaking at a Washington press briefing, Axelrod said the former House speaker's climb to the top of the pack will further expose his least flattering personal and professional qualities.

"Just remember, the higher a monkey climbs on a pole, the more you can see his butt," Axelrod said, citing a piece of political wisdom he said he learned from a Chicago alderman. "So, the speaker is very high on the pole right now and we'll see how people like the view."

Axelrod chided Gingrich as an "extremist" whose role in the partisan fights of the 1990s helped lead to government shutdowns and the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.  "His penchant for provocation is not going to help him deal with the shortfalls that he has right now among women, among seniors and some other key constituencies," he added.

A spokesman for Gingrich declined to comment on Axelrod's remarks but forwarded a copy of Gingrich's letter to staff and supporters earlier today promising to run "a positive, solutions-based campaign."

Axelrod also took swipes at former front-runner and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, criticizing his litany of shifting positions on policy issues and business practices as the head of Bain Capital.

"What was startling to me [about the $10,000 bet in Saturday's debate] was that generally his practice has been to bet other people's money, not his own," Axelrod said of Romney. "That's the way he ran his leveraged buyout business. They closed down hundreds of factories. They outsourced thousands of jobs. They took a lot of companies to bankruptcy and made a fortune off of those bankruptcies.

"When he says, 'I understand the real economy,' I think the American people understand that economy as well. And that aspect of the economy is one that they don't appreciate and they don't want to become the model for the future," Axelrod said.

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul responded to Axelrod in an email, saying the president's campaign is trying to "blame someone else" for the lagging economy.

"In Barack Obama's America, more people than ever before go to sleep each night without a job, on food stamps and with their homes facing foreclosure, and his response is to blame someone else," Saul said.

"Americans are petrified about how they are going to make ends meet and they know President Obama just doesn't get it. Mitt Romney is going to continue talking about the economy and President Obama's failed economic legacy each and every day no matter what distractions the White House creates," she said. "Just because President Obama skirts responsibility, doesn't mean the American people won't hold him accountable."