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David Axelrod reveals campaign surprises

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David Axelrod interviewed by Steve Edwards, University of Chicago Institute of Politics Deputy Director for Programming. (photo courtesy of the University of Chicago)

WASHINGTON -- While President Barack Obama's campaign team is doing massive research to figure out how to keep together and re-deploy his volunteer political army, top figures are assessing what they did right -- and where Mitt Romney went wrong.

Here's the latest:

In the short term, it looks like the Obama army is already being prompted to mobilize to help Obama pressure congressional Republicans on "fiscal cliff" issues via the Obama for America website and Twitter feed.

Obama national field director Jeremy Bird said in a Wednesday email more than 1 million campaign supporters answered a survey sent out after the election about what they wanted to do next -- as the data-driven campaign is documenting and analyzing "the work we did over the past 19 months."

Meanwhile, campaign manager Jim Messina and chief strategist David Axelrod are drilling down into the Obama win. Messina has packed up his Chicago apartment -- put everything in storage -- as he spends some time in Tuscany and Montana while he ponders his next move.

Axelrod's next chapter is at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics he is launching; he will serve as its inaugural director. It is patterned after Harvard's Institute of Politics -- where both men were part of a conference on the campaign a few days ago.

At a U. of C. IOP forum last Monday, Axelrod said Romney, by going hard right in the GOP primary, "made a series of Faustian bargains" that helped him clinch the nomination -- but made it harder to win the November election.

Axelrod revealed several developments that surprised him during the campaign:

† The pro-Romney SuperPACs did not hit Obama early by airing attack ads. They "spent an unbelievable amount of money in this race" but "didn't go on the air until May against us. Our greatest fear, frankly, was that they would go up and use their money to attack us in the first three months of the year when we really weren't fortified to respond. I mean, our air defenses were not ready, we just did not have the resources to do that. They gave us a pass."

† The Romney campaign "did not flesh him out in a more substantial way when they had the opportunity to do so," leaving an opening for Obama's team to define his Bain Capital "business practices" as good for Romney and his investors -- but not for most voters.

† Axelrod did not expect Romney to tap Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his running mate. "For the longest time I thought
he might pick Tim Pawlenty," he said of the former Minnesota governor. Or Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, to help in that battleground state. The selection of Ryan "played very much to the base of the party at a time he needed to broaden his appeal."

Messina, at a breakfast session hosted by Politico last week and Axelrod at the U. of C. slammed public polling in the 2012 presidential contest for, among other methodological lapses, not capturing enough cellphone users -- which means missing a lot of young voters who do not have land lines.

Said Axelrod, "Any two kids with an abacus can do a poll at the corner grocery store and some national news organization will cover it as if it's news."

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on December 1, 2012 8:18 AM.

30 Days to the fiscal cliff was the previous entry in this blog.

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