Obama strategist: Romney campaign "tenacious"

Scott Pelley spoke with Obama strategist David Axelorod about Mitt Romney's campaign and super PACs. CBS News

(CBS News) CHICAGO - Illinois is not only the land of Lincoln and birthplace of Ronald Reagan -- it is the home state of President Obama. As the Republican primary was playing out here, CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley decided to go to the national headquarters of the president's re-election operation where he talked with one of Obama's top political strategists, David Axelrod.

Obama's re-election headquarters covers 50,000 square feet. About 300 staff are devoted to advertising, social media outreach and building support for Mr. Obama in communities nationwide. The assumption here is that the election will be close.

"As you approach the beginning of the campaign, what are the president's weaknesses?" Pelley asked Axelrod.

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"It is no secret that we've come through a very difficult period for our country," Axelrod responded. "A recession that began in 2008, and when we came to office [it] was the worst that we've seen since the Great Depression. This is a difficult environment. No one would deny that. "

We wondered what the campaign intends to do with super PACs, those new political action committees that can take unlimited donations from millionaires and billionaires.

"The president feels strongly that super PACs are a very bad development in our politics, because it gives disproportionate voice to people who can write enormous checks," said Axelrod.

"If the president's so against them, why are you inviting people to contribute to the super PACs that support the president?" asked Pelley.

"Because as I said, you can't play touch when the other side's playing tackle," answered Axelrod. "If you've got super PACs on the other side that are committed to spending half a billion dollars or more to defeat you -- almost entirely negative ads -- I think you can anticipate that that's what they're going to do."

"What do you admire about the Romney campaign?"

"The Romney campaign has been doggedly tenacious. Every time they've had an opponent, they've mowed them down under a hail of negative media. When your whole message is, 'The other guy's a jerk,' there's not much for people to grab on to. There's not much inspiration there."

The president's strategists expect the campaign will be expensive -- somewhere over the more than $700 million dollars they spent last time.

  • Scott Pelley

    Anchor and Managing Editor, "CBS Evening News;" Correspondent, "60 Minutes"

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