Spinning Polls, Obama Campaign Gets Testy with Reporters
Leading Obama campaign strategists addressed reporters gruffly on a hastily convened conference call this morning, attempting to spin drifting poll numbers into a coherent message. "We're winning this race," senior political strategist David Axelrod insisted, citing early voting data. He warned: "You're gonna get spun and spun and spun in the next week," as if he were not spinning reporters himself, attacking the opposition vehemently.
Continuing in the negative vein that has characterized the Obama campaign, Axelrod likened Romney's message to a Halloween costume: "Romney is running around the nation, posing as an agent of change," he said.
Next, Obama campaign manager Jim Messsina came on to trash Romney's economic speech in Iowa last Friday, insisting that it "did not have a fact or a number in it." (Presumably the Obama campaign is counting on the media not to read the actual text of the speech as delivered.) Messina accused Romney of "bluffing about momentum he doesn't have," and insisted, like Axelrod, that the poll numbers are on the incumbent's side. And he touted Bill Clinton and Bruce Springsteen as supporters who are in touch with the American middle class.
Messina also criticized Romney's recent ad in Ohio about the auto industry, claiming that "everyone in America" knows it is misleading. He focused in particular on the ad's claim that Chrysler is considering moving Jeep manufacturing to China. (But the ad is, in fact, accurate, in that such plans are under consideration--as even Kevin Drum of Mother Jones, who nonetheless criticized the ad's implications, had to admit.)
Breathlessly, and angrily, Messina raced through a jumble of talking points, claiming that Romney is doing poorly even in places where the RealClearPolitics averages of polls show Romney building a comfortable lead, such as North Carolina, where Obama has not scheduled further visits for the duration of the campaign. (Messina declined to say whether that had changed, saying only that scheduling decisions were "day by day.")
Interestingly, though Messina sought to describe the race in North Carolina as a "dead heat," Axelrod seemed far less sanguine, stating that North Carolina was "within reach" and that he was proud of their efforts.
Axelrod and Messina seem not to have decided on a particular theme for their call, other than the kitchen sink method, hurling rapid-fire accusations that they did not bother to substantiate. ("He never reached across the aisle in Massachusetts" was the most misleading of all, given the Democratic composition of the legislature.)
Reporters, uncharacteristically, pounced on the obvious omissions in the presentation, asking why Vice President Joe Biden was spending time in Pennsylvania if Romney had no chance of winning anywhere. Messina answered that they were not taking anything for granted; Axelrod called the Romney campaign's tactics a "break glass posture," i.e. an emergency move--though the question was about Biden, not Romney.
A reporter from the Des Moines Reigster, which chose to endorse Romney and which was criticized over the weekend by the Obama campaign, asked Axelrod whether the Obama campaign felt endorsements were important. Axelrod, suddenly striking a respectful posture (presumably to mitigate the campaign's earlier self-inflicted damage), said that he was confident that the campaign would do well regardless.
Axelrod and Messina also said that Hurricane Sandy would not be expected to affect their campaign efforts.