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 Huffington Post reports on remarks by spokesperson Stephanie Cutter. Like Karl Rove, she was surprised by the lack of pushback on the Bain issue.
† 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."
"I never understood why they never pushed back on our attacks on his business experience," Cutter said at the seventh annual RootsCamp conference for progressive organizers in Washington, D.C. "He ran largely on an argument that, 'I understand the real economy, I know how to fix this and the president doesn't -- he's never been in the real economy,' with his only credential his Bain experience."
The Obama campaign hammered Romney on Bain during the campaign, essentially painting the former Massachusetts governor as a corporate takeover artist who founded a firm that specialized in outsourced U.S. jobs.
While some prominent Democrats initially criticized the Obama campaign for "attacking private equity," the campaign didn't back down.
"We weren't making an argument ... that Bain was bad," Cutter said on Friday. "We were making an argument that this experience does not qualify you to be president of the United States or to understand the real economy. We obviously worked hard to tear that down, and they never built it back up. I never understood why."