Axelrod swipes Gingrich as "original Tea Partier"


With just weeks left before voting begins in the Republican nomination fight, Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod took some shots Tuesday at the two candidates he sees as President Obama's most likely opponent in the general election: Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

At a briefing for reporters in Washington by senior members of Mr. Obama's reelection team, Axelrod described the former House Speaker as "the original Tea Partier."

Axelrod then recounted an anecdote that he'd heard from a former Chicago alderman: "He said, 'just remember the higher a monkey climbs on a pole, the more you can see his butt,'" Axelrod said. "So, you know, the Speaker is very high on the pole right now and we'll see how people like the view."

Axelrod also highlighted Mitt Romney's position shifts on climate change, gay rights, and abortion and questioned whether Republican voters were buying the former Massachusetts governor's "conversion." Axelrod also couldn't help but take a swipe at the $10,000 bet Romney proposed to Texas Governor Rick Perry during Saturday's Republican presidential debate. Pointing to Romney's time running investment firm Bain Capital, Axelrod said, "generally his practice has been to bet other people's money, not his own."

The Obama team is confident the president has several paths to reelection, despite a struggling economy and low poll numbers for the incumbent. In the latest CBS News/New York Times poll, 54 percent of Americans said Mr. Obama does not deserve reelection.

Campaign Manager Jim Messina highlighted the team's grassroots organization, saying they had already reached out to more than a million supporters. He said contacting and engaging voters will begin in earnest this spring, with an emphasis on expanding support among young people and Latinos.

Helping with the effort is the campaign's massive fundraising operation. Mr. Obama has already raised more than $86 million this year and today addressed his national finance committee in Washington.

"It's understandable if people aren't as chipper as they were in 2008," the president said. "But, I just want to remind all of you that you didn't decide to support Barack Hussein Obama because it would be easy."

The campaign is focusing on several swing states to find ways to win the 270 Electoral College votes needed for reelection. These include the traditional battleground states of Ohio and Florida, as well as western states like Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona that have seen demographic shifts in recent years in part because of growing Hispanic populations. Mr. Obama also wants to hold on to two key southern states he carried in 2008: North Carolina and Virginia.

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    Caroline Horn is CBS News' senior producer for politics.

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