CBS Tosses Softballs at Axelrod on GOP Debate; No Republicans

CBS's Early Show on Wednesday somehow couldn't find time for any Republicans to comment on the most recent GOP presidential debate, and instead, brought on David Axelrod, the chief strategist for President Obama's reelection campaign, to bash the GOP. Anchors Erica Hill and Jeff Glor gave Axelrod the kid glove treatment, instead of pressing him about the issues that may negatively affect the President.

Glor began with the simplest question possible to the presidential advisor: "What did you think of the debate last night? Let's start with that." As one might expect, Axelrod bashed the Republican field in general and Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and Mitt Romney specifically. When the Democrat then singled out the former Massachusetts governor for further criticism, the anchor followed up by asking, "You've had some of your strongest words for Romney. Is he still your primary focus right now?"

Later, Hill set her sights on congressional Republicans's opposition to the President's jobs bill: "He said last night he doesn't feel there's a sense in Washington that they're moving with the urgency required. So what is the President doing then to speak directly- especially to Republican lawmakers, to help pass these individual, now, parts of his jobs plan, because he has to go back to them at some point?" When Axelrod answered by simply stating that "what he [Obama] wants to do is enlist the American people to talk to their lawmakers, to talk to the folks Capitol Hill, and tell them to act," the CBS personality replied, "But do you see that happening?"

Near the end of the segment, Glor inched closer to asking a tougher question, but didn't quite get there: "You say you're enlisting the American people, but you're also doing it in swing states. How concerned are you right now about some of those states that went your way last time around?" None of the other major issues affecting the President and his administration- the high unemployment rate, his struggling approval ratings, Fast & Furious, Solyndra, or foreign policy questions- came up during the interview.

The full transcript of Erica Hill and Jeff Glor's interview of David Axelrod, which began eight minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour:

ERICA HILL: And as Republicans look for votes, the man whose job they are eying is finishing a three-day bus tour today in Virginia.

JEFF GLOR: President Obama has been trying to build support for his jobs bill, which failed in the Senate last week, you know. On Tuesday, the President vowed to keep fighting for parts of his plan.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I'm everybody's president. I don't care if you're Republican or a Democrat. This is not the Republican jobs act. This is not called the Democratic jobs act. This is the American Jobs Act, (crowd cheers and applauds) and everybody will be better off if we pass it.

[CBS News Graphic: "Obama's Jobs Swing: Top Dem Advisor On Presidential Push"]

GLOR: And joining us now this morning is the President's chief campaign strategist, David Axelrod. David, good morning.

Erica Hill, CBS News Anchor; Jeff Glor, CBS News Anchor; & David Axelrod, Obama Campaign Chief Strategist | NewsBusters.orgDAVID AXELROD, SENIOR OBAMA CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Good to be with you.

GLOR: What did you think of the debate last night? Let's start with that.

AXELROD: It was interesting, it was interesting. Look, if you were an American who is worried about jobs or how we restore security for the middle class, there wasn't much in it for you- Herman Cain wants to raise taxes on 85% of Americans; Rick Perry thinks we can drill to prosperity; and Mitt Romney thinks we need more and faster foreclosures.

But there was one revealing moment in there, when they were having that exchange that you saw on immigration, and Mitt Romney finally conceded, yes, I had illegals working on my property on- from a lawn service. He said I went to the lawn service and said, for Pete's sake, I can't have illegals- I'm running for office, and- not, it was wrong, not it was illegal- but I'm running for office. I thought that was the most unintentionally revealing moment of the debate.

[CBS News Graphic: "Presidential Pressure: Axelrod Responds to GOP Debate Attacks"]

GLOR: You've had some of your strongest words for Romney. Is he still your primary focus right now?

AXELROD: Well, I mean, I don't know who the candidate's going to be. He has been bumping along at like a quarter of the vote in the Republican primary. There seems to be a resistance to him, and I think there is a resistance to him for just the reason I said. I think there's a sense that there is no core to him. He said last night that his program- we modeled our health care program largely on what he did in Massachusetts- now, he says I never intended it to be a model for the nation. In 2007, he said, this will be a model for the nation. And time and time and time again, Governor Romney switches from one position to another, apparently because he's running for office.

HILL: Let's talk about running for office when it comes to the President. A lot of criticism over this bus tour. You know, is it campaigning? Is it not? Regardless of what it is, he says he's out there speaking to the American people because he doesn't feel he can get Washington to listen to him. He said last night he doesn't feel there's a sense in Washington that they're moving with the urgency required. So what is the President doing then to speak directly- especially to Republican lawmakers, to help pass these individual, now, parts of his jobs plan, because he has to go back to them at some point?

AXELROD: Erica, sixty-three percent of the American people support the American Jobs Act. They want action now to put people back to work, and they think that the proposals the President has put forward will work. What he wants to do is enlist the American people to talk to their lawmakers, to talk to the folks Capitol Hill, and tell them to act-

HILL: Do you see that happening? But do you see that happening? Because, obviously, the American people aren't casting the votes in this case. They've already cast them for the people who are supposed to vote for it-

AXELROD: But they're going to cast them again, and, believe me, the people on Capitol Hill are aware of that fact. I think you're going to see action on pieces of this bill moving forward. And it is important- if it's an inside game, we will never make progress. We have to do this together. The President, the American people, putting pressure on Congress, on those Republicans in Congress, who have been no, no, no, to everything the President's proposed- to say let's move together to start solving problems, instead of scoring political points.

GLOR: You say you're enlisting the American people, but you're also doing it in swing states. How concerned are you right now about some of those states that went your way last time around?


AXELROD: Well, look, I think it's going to be a close election, and anybody who says otherwise is not telling you the truth. We had the wind at our back the last time and 47% of the American people voted the other way. This is a closely divided country. We're in a tough economy. But I am very confident that we're going to win because the President has a vision about how we get people back to work, but also how we restore the security that the middle class has lost in this country for a long period of time. And, as I said, you watch that Republican debate last night- there's not a whole lot that would give you hope if you're a middle class person in this country, that they get it, that they understand what's going on in the lives of the American people.

HILL: Some criticism, too, that the hope that they may have had when President Obama came into office, which he ran on- a lot of people have lost. So they're looking at that from both sides this morning. Nice to have you in the studio with us. Thanks for coming by.

AXELROD: Thank you. Good to be with you guys- thanks for having me.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center