David Axelrod (Charles Dharapak/Associated Press/AP)
Media critic

NBC News and MSNBC added an A-list name to their roster of commentators back in February 2013, when they signed David Axelrod as a senior political analyst. A former White House senior adviser and a top strategist for both of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, Axelrod brought fresh familiarity with Washington politics plus an enviable list of contacts.

Not for long, however.

Just a couple of weeks ago, CNN announced that Axelrod would now be analyzing politics under its logo. The Erik Wemple Blog caught up with Axelrod last night in the Spin Room of the CNN presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. Why the switch, CNN senior political commentator?

“CNN has really made a huge investment in covering this campaign and, you know, I think I’m a reflection of that,” said Axelrod. “They wanted my expertise and wanted to offer my expertise,” he continued, a reference to his past not only with Obama but also as a reporter with the Chicago Tribune.

Was the Obama guru suggesting that MSNBC didn’t want his expertise? “I just think they had a different approach to the election,” said Axelrod, who stressed over and over that he was grateful to MSNBC and enjoyed his experience there. That said: “I think that I did not want to be simply a surrogate for the Democratic Party.” So is MSNBC a partisan outfit? “I think that’s the nature of it,” he responded.

In recent months, MSNBC has taken decisive action to shore up its straight-news operation, particularly on its daytime schedule. It has booted progressive hosts like Ed Schultz, Krystal Ball and Toure Neblett, as well as moved the Rev. Al Sharpton from the critical 6 p.m. slot to a weekend show. Kate Snow, an NBC News correspondent, will anchor a two-hour afternoon news show, MSNBC announced today. Don’t forget, too, that Brian Williams next week will start as a breaking-news host at the cable channel. In deference to Axelrod, however, MSNBC maintains a lefty tilt in prime time.