DES MOINES -- President Barack Obama's top re-election advisers Jim Messina and David Axelrod belittled Mitt Romney's eight-vote Iowa caucus win in a conference call Wednesday morning.
Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist, taunted Romney's Iowa vote totals noting it was little better than he did when he ran for president the first time four years ago. In Iowa, Romney did not grow his base, leading Axelrod to say, "He's still the 25 percent man. Until he proves that he's not, I don't think we can close the books on this nominating process.
"Had he won a resounding victory. . . . transcended what he had done before, I think you could have argued persuasively that he was bringing that party together and that he was in a position to close this out. I don't think that happened last night. . . . It is very possible that this race will go on for awhile," Axelrod said.
Romney's campaign brushed aside the insult, saying it only speaks to Romney's potential to beat Obama.
Axelrod and Messina, the Obama 2012 campaign manager, made a scant reference to former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) who, after running under the radar for months -- practically ignored at the many debates -- peaked just at the right time and came in second.
Axelrod suggested the same Romney-friendly "SuperPACs" that bankrolled attack ads aimed at former House Speaker Newt Gingrich may move to take down Santorum.
"You can expect they will be unleashing a torrent on Sen. Santorum," Axelrod said.
In December, Axelrod invoked a political lesson from Ald. Dick Mell (33rd) in discussing the then-surging Gingrich and the scrutiny it drew: "Just remember the higher a monkey climbs on a pole, the more you can see his butt."
On Wednesday, Axelrod made reference to that zinger again.
"Now it's Santorum who's climbed up the pole, and as I've said about Speaker Gingrich, America will then judge whether they like the view," Axelrod said. "But you can be sure that Gov. Romney will give them a good view and his SuperPAC will be hard at work to try and take Sen. Santorum apart."
Axelrod said he was told by someone "tangentially" in Romney's circle -- he did not provide any details -- that "Mitt's full of it. He doesn't believe what he is saying."
"Taking two positions on every issue, one more on the left and one more on the far right doesn't make you a centrist, it makes you a charlatan."
Ryan Williams, a Romney campaign spokesman said in reaction to all this: "Obama and his liberal allies are desperate to distract from his failed leadership and abysmal jobs record. They are intimidated by Gov. Romney's candidacy because they understand that he is the only Republican who will beat the president and undo the damage caused by his disastrous economic policies."