WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama will hit the campaign trail, White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod said Monday, the first time the Obama team said Mrs. Obama will help Democrats on the ballot in November.
Mrs. Obama--the current flap over her Spain trip aside--is the most popular figure in the Obama orbit and candidates in Illinois and across the country have been asking the White House for her fund-raising help. Mrs. Obama has done just one event--for the Democratic National Committee--since becoming first lady.
Up until Monday, the White House has been punting when asked about Mrs. Obama's 2010 campaign plans. As President Obama has been ramping up his fund-raising activities in August--he's in Austin and Dallas today for fund-raisers--Mrs. Obama is taking August off.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer, in an Axelrod interview asked " Will the first lady, Michelle Obama, be on the campaign trail between now and November 2nd?
"I'm sure that she will, Wolf. She -- I think she feels strongly about the affirmative things that this administration has done. She's been a leader on some of them. Just last week, the United States Senate passed a bill on child nutrition.
"And, as you know, that's been a great focus of hers. We've got a huge problem in this country in terms of child nutrition, childhood obesity. And this would be a big step forward in making sure that schools across the country are feeding kids in a nutritious way -- a healthier way.
These kinds of things are advances that we've made over the last 18 months. I think she wants to go out and talk about those."
Mrs. Obama's Spain trip controversy
Turning to Mrs. Obama five-day Spain vacation, Axelrod was asked, if "the criticism of her vacation in Spain with her daughter fair?
Axelrod said, "Look, here's my view, yes, she is the first lady of the United States. She's also a mom. She wanted to take her daughter on a trip. They went with some friends of the family to celebrate another little girl's birthday.
"There aren't all that many places to go where you get privacy. Wherever you go, security is going to come, not because she asked for it, but because that is a nature of her -- of her position in life. And so, you know, I think people would judge it in that way. She's a very good mom. She's very committed. And I think she wanted to do something with her -- with her daughter."
So do I think it's unfair?
" I'll let other people judge. But I think -- I think that she's entitled to -- to -- to do those kinds of things, as anyone else would be."
BELOW, FROM CNN....
On today's edition of CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod spoke about President Obama's relationship with democratic candidates, the economy and more. A full transcript follows.
Please credit all usage to CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer
THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And joining us now, the president's senior adviser, David Axelrod.
David, thanks very much for coming in.
DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Wolf, good to be with you.
BLITZER: Let's talk...
AXELROD: Happy anniversary, by the way.
BLITZER: Oh, thank you very much. Always exciting to celebrate -- five years...
AXELROD: Lot of Situations
BLITZER: -- of THE SITUATION ROOM.
AXELROD: -- a lot of situations.
BLITZER: And do you know what, there'll be a lot more situations...
AXELROD: There sure will be.
BLITZER: -- coming down the road. You guys have your own Situation Room. We have one over here, as well.
AXELROD: I know.
BLITZER: All right, let's talk politics first, then we'll get to some of the substantive issues.
The president of the United States goes to Texas and the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Bill White, doesn't want to be seen with the president on this day. Last week he went to Georgia. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Roy Barnes, doesn't want to be seen with the Democratic president of the United States.
What's wrong with this picture?
AXELROD: Well, Wolf, we -- in fairness, we -- we didn't carry Texas or Georgia, so the politics, for us, has always been a little challenging in those states. And these candidates have -- they're running now. They're on the ballot. They're going to make the judgments they think are best for their campaigns. And I'm totally fine with that. The president understands -- understands that. He went twice...
BLITZER: We're showing our -- our viewers, by the way, a picture of the president arriving in Texas, and with Perry, the Republican governor, who's running for reelection. He's there.
But you know what, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate isn't there.
AXELROD: Well, Rick Perry is there because he is the governor and that's an official greeting. And that's nice. I'm glad that he was there and I'm sure they had a nice conversation.
BLITZER: I guess the question is, is the president, in some of these states, some of these districts, a liability to Democratic candidates?
AXELROD: Look, I'm sure he's stronger in some districts and states than others. The one thing that I know is that fairly consistently, across the country, his numbers are substantially better than the Republicans' in Congress. So, you know, if you want to make that kind of comparison. But I think, ultimately, these races are going to be decided on the basis of the strength of those campaigns, the strength of the -- of the candidates, on sometimes uniquely local issues. That's the way these campaigns run in mid-terms and we understand that.
BLITZER: So you understand why some of these Democratic candidates would prefer not necessarily to be seen with the president, although if you would have asked me a year ago or two years ago, for sure, that the
-- that Barack Obama, who was so popular, might be pushed aside a little bit by some of these Democratic candidates, even in states like Georgia or Texas, I would have been surprised.
AXELROD: Well, look, Wolf, politics is a dynamic -- a dynamic force. The fact is that -- and -- and things change. But, look, these candidates are going to make the decisions they think are best for them. We wish them well. Obviously, the president is raising money in Texas today to help Democratic candidates across the country. He's making a speech about education and its importance in America's economic future. We're down there doing the business we went to do.
BLITZER: Will the first lady, Michelle Obama, be on the campaign trail between now and November 2nd?
AXELROD: I'm sure that she will, Wolf. She -- I think she feels strongly about the affirmative things that this administration has done. She's been a leader on some of them. Just last week, the United States Senate passed a bill on child nutrition. And, as you know, that's been a great focus of hers. We've got a huge problem in this country in terms of child nutrition, childhood obesity. And this would be a big step forward in making sure that schools across the country are feeding kids in a nutritious way -- a healthier way.
These kinds of things are advances that we've made over the last 18 months. I think she wants to go out and talk about those.
BLITZER: Was the criticism of her vacation in Spain with her daughter fair?
AXELROD: Look, here's my view, yes, she is the first lady of the United States. She's also a mom. She wanted to take her daughter on a trip. They went with some friends of the family to celebrate another little girl's birthday. There aren't all that many places to go where you get privacy. Wherever you go, security is going to come, not because she asked for it, but because that is a nature of her -- of her position in life. And so, you know, I think people would judge it in that way. She's a very good mom. She's very committed. And I think she wanted to do something with her -- with her daughter.
So do I think it's unfair?
I'll let other people judge. But I think -- I think that she's entitled to -- to -- to do those kinds of things, as anyone else would be.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about the president. Because in recent days, we've heard him mention by name George W. Bush, and critically, saying that the Republicans want to just bring back the Bush policies.
Frank Rich, the columnist in "The New York Times," wrote this:
"Obama and the Democrats are, if anything, flattering the current GOP by accusing it of being a carbon copy of Bush. But even if the Democrats sharpen their attack, they are doomed to fall short if they don't address the cancer in the American heart -- joblessness."
Because there aren't the jobs being created that should be created right now.
AXELROD: Wolf, look, joblessness is, in fact, the number one challenge facing this country. We've been working assiduously at it.
Remember, there were three million jobs lost in the six months before the president took office, almost 800,000 lost in his first month, when he took over from the last administration.
We've had seven straight months of private sector job growth. The economy is growing again -- not nearly fast enough. We have to keep it moving. But the last thing we want to do is go back to the same policies that created the disaster in the first place. And that's what this debate is about. We're not interested in re-litigating the past, but we don't want to relive it either.
And what the Republicans are saying is we want to go back to doing exactly what we were doing before the president was elected. Well, what they were doing before the president got elected was catastrophic for this country. We can't give special interests free reign to write their old -- their own rules again. We can't go back to the policies that turned Bill Clinton's $237 billion surplus into a $1.3 trillion deficit.
AXELROD: We can't go back there. And that -- that's what -- that's the argument we're making.
BLITZER: Does the president agree with Lindsey Graham and other Republicans, that we should take another look at the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which grants citizenship to anyone born in the United States?
AXELROD: You know, Wolf, that is a debate that seems very political in this campaign season. And I'm not going to engage in it here. The 14th Amendment has had -- is a rather -- has a rather lengthy and proud history. It was written by the Republican Party. And I'm not going to trifle with it, even for your fifth anniversary.
BLITZER: So basically, so what I hear you saying is the president disagrees with these Republicans, that there's no need to re-examine the 14th Amendment to the Constitution?
AXELROD: I'm not even sure that -- I -- I think they're making a political argument for this season. It's not a substantive argument.
BLITZER: When you say it's not a substantive argument, maybe I'm missing something, but explain what you mean by that. I mean, obviously, the president disagrees, then. It's simple. You know, Lindsey Graham says that children of illegal immigrants should not necessarily automatically be granted citizenship. There are some coming here from China and other -- other countries who simply want to have U.S. citizenship for their children.
But go ahead and -- and flesh that out a little bit because I...
AXELROD: Well, Wolf, there's...
BLITZER: cause I am missing something
AXELROD: No, there's no -- there's no -- there's no question that for generations -- I'm the son of an immigrant. For generations and generations, people have come to this country because of what it represents, because of the hope and opportunity, because of the freedom that we have here. That's -- that -- that has always been the case.
And I -- I think that's something that we all embrace.
BLITZER: On that note, David Axelrod, thanks very much for coming in.
AXELROD: OK. Good to be with you.
BLITZER: We'll -- I'm sure we'll spend a lot of quality time between -- in the next five years of The Situation Room.
AXELROD: I'm looking forward to it, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.