If President Obama’s top campaign aides still believed in Santa, topping their list of requests would be watching the Republican presidential candidates verbally beat each other to a pulp for the next several months. Thanks to Newt Gingrich’s recent surge in key primary states, their dreams may just come true.
He is “the original Tea Partier,” said David Axelrod, the president’s chief communications strategist, in a Tuesday briefing with reporters. His rise to the top will force all of the GOP candidates to lurch so far to the right that by the time the general election season rolls around, it will be too late to appeal to mainstream voters, which can only boost Obama’s re-election prospects. The only question is, can Gingrich sustain his frontrunner status?
Recalling a bit of “homespun wisdom” shared by a Chicago alderman years ago who said, “the higher a monkey climbs on a pole, the more you can see his butt,” Axelrod added, “the speaker is very high on the pole right now and we’ll see how people like the view.”
Axelrod also took aim at Mitt Romney, who’s “done everything except light himself on fire” to appeal to Republican voters. He has shifted his position on several issues, from abortion to climate change, but they’re not buying it.
Romney and Gingrich have in the past couple of weeks sharpened their attacks on each other, which frequently makes both look bad.
“None of that is helpful to them,” Axelrod said. “I think it’s defining their party in a negative way.”
Republican-on-Republican combat leaves little time for the GOP contenders to build a ground game. Meanwhile, Obama 2012 is mapping out a path to re-election that includes extensive on-the-ground operations in states across the nation, and expanding outreach in the South. That’s a region where African-American voters will be key to his success, offsetting the impact of white voters who tend to lean Republican. The major migration of Blacks to the South in the past ten years, as well as a swelling Latino population, could help Obama sweep key states like Georgia. The campaign also will be targeting the eight million people who were too young to vote in 2008.
Axelrod also said that an Obama victory in 2012 would be good for congressional Republicans currently functioning under a reign of Tea Party terror. He predicted it would be a “liberating moment” for those who under different circumstances would be more open to compromise.
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