The top strategists for President Obama’s reelection campaign argued Wednesday morning that, despite his victories in 6 out of the 10 Super Tuesday states, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is in serious trouble.
Chief strategist David Axelrod cast Romney’s failure to condemn conservative talk radio show host Rush Limbaugh for calling a Georgetown law student a “slut” (among other things) as an example of the Republican candidate’s movement rightward.
“If you don’t have the strength to stand up to the most strident voices in your party, how will you stand up to [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad?” Axelrod asked.
He added that that shift would hurt Romney in the general election: “This is not a game,” Axelrod said. “You’re running for president of the United States. When you stake out positions in the middle of the campaign you’re going to be held to those positions.”
Along with campaign manager Jim Messina, Axelrod argued that Romney was alienating independents even as he struggled to win over the conservative GOP base.
Romney “continues to grind out a kind of tactical victory and a kind of death march,” Axelrod said. By touting his own inevitability, Romney’s “message to Republicans in all the subsequent states is that their votes don’t matter, they are stuck with him,” Axelrod added paraphrasing Ronney’s message as: “I’m your guy, so live with it.”
Messina said that Romney’s failure to win independent voters in any state but his home state of Massachusetts was a sign that the candidate had moved too far to the ideological right. “Independents have bailed on Romney just in time for the general election,” he said.
It’s true that Romney lost with independents on Tuesday. Check out this chart from our polling department:
But independents who vote in Republican primaries overwhelmingly say they plan to vote for the eventual GOP nominee. So Messina’s argument is a bit disingenuous.
In response, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul pointed out that Obama took only 57 percent of the vote in Oklahoma’s Democratic primary.
On more solid ground, Messina highlighted Romney’s weakness with younger and lower-income voters and polls showing general unhappiness with the GOP field.
Obama is speaking in the swing state of Charlotte, N.C. Wednesday. Messina argued that while the GOP is struggling, “We are playing on an even more expanded map.”