David Axelrod: Republican candidates are "pledging allegiance to the Tea Party"

Top Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod on Friday accused the Republican presidential contenders of "pledging allegiance to the Tea Party" at the Republican debate last night rather than the country, and said their lack of attention to the middle class was "stunning."

Axelrod, in an appearance on CBS' "The Early Show," blasted the candidates' performances in Thursday night's Republican debate, and took particular aim on the eight Republicans' unanimously expressed opposition to accepting tax increases as part of a deal to reduce the deficit.

"What was stunning was when they were asked, 'when you look at the problem of the debt of this country, would you accept any more revenues, any higher taxes, even if it were ten parts cut and one part taxes?' and they all raised their hand and said no, essentially pledging allegiance to the Tea Party, instead of resolving the problems of this country," Axelrod said.

During the closely-watched Thursday night event, debate moderators asked the Republican contenders to raise their hands if they would reject a deal that reduced $10 from the deficit for every $1 in tax increases. All of the candidates raised their hands.

"What was also stunning was, an entire debate, two hours, the two words you never heard from one Republican candidate for president was 'middle class,'" he added. "They didn't address the problems facing people in their lives in this country, and that is what this election is going to be about, who has a vision that's going to move this country forward and restore security for the middle class?"

Axelrod also took aim at Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is expected to make clear his intention to run for president in a South Carolina speech on Saturday. Perry was not present at the Thursday debate - nor is he on the ballot for Saturday's straw poll - but he is likely to emerge as an immediate frontrunner if and when he does get into the race.

When asked to comment on Perry's criticism of President Obama's jobs record, Axelrod noted that "he's also called for secession from the United States of America and all kinds of other things."

"I'm not going to respond specifically to things that Rick Perry has to say," Axelrod continued. "We'll see when he becomes a candidate what specifically he has to propose, what he has to say. His record will get scrutinized - his record on things like education and health care and some key issues in Texas."