Axelrod: Obama Alone Can't Create Bipartisanship

As Barack Obama marks one year since his historic election, one of the architects of his campaign acknowledges the president has not forged the post-partisan atmosphere that he had hoped to achieve.

Senior Adviser David Axelrod said the president "is not a magician. You don't with a wave of a wand make everything different."

The top White House aide said while the president has "extended a hand of cooperation, some in the other party made a political decision that isn't in their interest." Speaking with CBS Radio News in his West Wing office, Axelrod was hard-pressed to specify areas of cooperation with Republicans on any major issues. He pointed to relatively easy areas including national service and child health care.

But on the tough issues including health care reform he noted, "There's an awful lot of pressure from the right wing of the Republican party that has made it more difficult for moderate Republicans to step forward." The longtime Democratic strategist said, "I don't think being in the opposition on every major issue is a winning formula for the Republican Party."

Speaking before the outcome of Tuesday's elections was known, Axelrod discussed the upstate New York Congressional race that saw a moderate Republican bow out after a stiff challenge from a conservative. Axelrod said, "The Palinistas went in and staged what was essentially a hostile takeover of the Republican Party and basically went with a third party candidate and basically said to the moderates there's no place for you in our party." Axelrod said, "Ultimately, that's not a winning strategy."

Axelrod insists that except for being "a little grayer," the president has not changed. He said the president is still the man described as "no drama Obama." He noted Mr. Obama "never gets too high or too low." Reflecting on Oval Office pressures, Axelrod said, "When you're making decisions that deal with life and death and decisions of the magnitude any president has to deal with particularly in difficult times, it carries burdens that impact on you in ways you probably don't even realize."

Axelrod quipped, "If his (the president's) hair is a little grayer we call him more distinguished."

Asked why polls often indicate his boss is more popular than administration policies, Axelrod said Mr. Obama is governing in a very difficult time that has required some "not popular but necessary decisions."

Axelrod, a longtime Obama advisor and confidant, helped lead the tight knit campaign team that moved to the White House. He served as Mr. Obama's top strategist and communications advisor, roles he maintains at the White House.

Peter Maer is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here.
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