Axelrod: Romney campaign "not rooted in facts"

(CBS News) As Mitt Romney sees positive ramifications - in some polls and media analysis - from his debate performance, the Obama campaign is harshly criticizing the GOP nominee for being "dishonest."

On "Face the Nation," top Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod said Romney gave a convincing "performance" solid enough for an actor, "serially rewriting history."

"Governor Romney showed up to deliver a performance, and he delivered a very good performance," Axelrod said. "It was completely unrooted in fact; it was completely unrooted in the position he's taken before, and he spent 90 minutes trying to undo two years of campaigning."

Doubling down on his assertion, Axelrod said, "I think he was dishonest...absolutely."

Axelrod criticized Romney for saying during the debates that he "never proposed" $5 trillion worth of tax cuts, which an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found would occur if Romney implemented his plan to reduce tax rates by 20 percent. "That was dishonest," Axelrod said.

"As President Clinton would say, it takes a certain brass to do what Governor Romney did," he added. "The basic theory is, 'Say whatever you need to to get the deal,' and that's what he did that night."

Romney's tax plan has become a central component of debate between the two candidates. At the debate, Romney said he would reduce loopholes and reductions to make his tax cuts revenue neutral.

"It's impossible," Axelrod responded. "He cannot name one loophole that he would close. If you took away all the loopholes for upper-income Americans, every single one of them, he would still be trillions of dollars short." In order to pay for the tax cuts and remain revenue neutral, Axelrod said, "He has to sock it to the middle class or explode the deficit."

"This is a shell game," he argued. "Whichever shell you pick up, the middle class loses."

As for the president's own performance, Axelrod said Mr. Obama is his own "harshest critic," adding that he has already reviewed the tapes and will make "the adjustments that he thinks necessary."

Even though Axelrod described Romney's explanation that he misspoke about the "47 percent" as a "little unconvincing," he said President Obama "didn't see the appropriate opportunity" to mention the divisive comments that had rocked Romney's campaign.

"I think the president was earnestly trying to answer the questions that were asked on the topics that were being discussed, and he didn't find the opportunity to raise it," he concluded.

He also said the president was "a little take aback" by the "brazenness" of Romney's statements, in which he believed the GOP nominee "walked away from so many" of his earlier positions.

Axelrod said the country got "some good news" with the latest unemployment report that said joblessness dropped to 7.8 percent, but he dismissed theories that the numbers were adjusted to favor President Obama's reelection.

"They can join the lunatic fringe of birthers," Axelrod said of people who made the comments, including General Electric's former CEO Jack Welch. "I understand that for someone who supports Governor Romney that... it was disappointing that that number ticked down."

"We have a lot of work to do; we have to move forward. We have to accelerate this recovery, but the fact is we're in a much different place than we were when the president walked [into office]," Axelrod said.

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for