The Fix: 2010 will be a 'tough' election, Axelrod says

By Chris Cillizza
Wednesday, October 20, 2010; 8:40 AM

1. White House senior adviser David Axelrod repeatedly described the coming midterm election as "tough" but insisted that it would be a choice between the two parties rather than a referendum on President Obama.

"We've come through two very difficult years," said Axelrod in a sit-down with a handful of reporters -- including the Fix -- at the White House. "Two years ago I could have told you this was going to be a tough year," he added at another point.

But Axelrod quickly pivoted to note that the president's active presence on the campaign trail has caused some narrowing in the enthusiasm gap between the parties -- particularly in targeted states -- and that voters were beginning to grasp the implications of the Nov. 2 vote.

"Our mission is to get people energized and understanding there are real stakes in this election," Axelrod said.

His comments come as Obama embarks on a four-day cross-country campaign swing that will see the president stump for Democratic candidates and raise money for party committees in Oregon, California, Nevada and Minnesota. Early next week, Obama will be in Rhode Island for a fundraiser to benefit the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and is expected to be back on the campaign trail for the final weekend before the Nov. 2 election.

The White House has long insisted -- and Axelrod put the argument forward again on Tuesday -- that the November election is about a choice between a vision for moving the country forward and one that would take the country in the opposite direction.

"It is natural and easy in a midterm election particularly in difficult times to treat the election as a referendum on current conditions," Axelrod said. "That's not what it is. This is choice between two fundamentally different approaches."

He repeatedly cited Texas Sen. John Cornyn's (R) comment that a Republican-controlled Congress would seek to repeal financial regulatory reform as an example of how GOP policies would be a "prescription for problems" for the American people.

Axelrod refused to make predictions about what victory might look like for Democrats in an election where most political prognosticators believe the party is headed to broad-scale losses at the House and Senate level.

"We'd like to see Democrats in control of Congress at the end of this process," Axelrod offered. "I am not going to sit here and set the parameters for you. I am quite sure you will set them for us."

2. Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk (R) and state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) came out swinging Tuesday night in their second debate of the Senate race, but the face-off that was largely devoid of the fireworks that marked the pair's showdown on NBC's "Meet the Press" earlier this month.

The hour-long debate, which was moderated by ABC's George Stephanopoulos, centered on the topics that have been the mainstays of the campaign thus far for President Obama's former Senate seat. Giannoulias hammered Kirk over his truthfulness, while Kirk slammed Giannoulias on issues of his own character.

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