Axelrod: Clinton must "untether" from talking points

David Axelrod, the chief strategist for President Obama's campaigns and a CNN Senior Political Commentator, said that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must "untether herself from the teleprompters, from the polling, [and] get herself out of the straightjacket of inevitability" if she wants to win over voters.

Axelrod appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday as a new CBS News Battleground Tracker poll showed Clinton's chief rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, surging in Iowa and New Hampshire. In Iowa, he leads Clinton 43 percent to 33 percent among likely Democratic caucus voters. That lead only grows larger in New Hampshire, where Sanders nets 52 percent support to Clinton's 30 percent.

In South Carolina, Clinton still leads Sanders 46 percent to 23 percent.

Axelrod said that the situation "isn't all that bleak for her as these polls would suggest, but they're certainly an alarm and they should be taken seriously." He cited Clinton's strong organization in Iowa, as well as the fact that Iowa and New Hampshire lack the large minority populations where she has more of an advantage. Then he dispensed his advice about how Clinton could become more authentic.

"People want to know that the person they are voting for is comfortable in their own skin and they are presenting themselves as they are and is not filtering everything through a seven-second political kind of delay, so that it comes out in absolutely calibrated language, which is the feeling you get from Mrs. Clinton from time to time," he said.

He also explained what might be going on at Clinton headquarters as the slew of negative polls rolls in: "Every donor in America becomes an amateur political consultant and very generous with their advice," he said.

Axelrod recalled a time when then-candidate Obama's poll numbers were so poor that a donor in Chicago summoned him to a meeting and told him to replace his entire leadership team with staffers more familiar with Washington politics.

Weighing in on Sanders, Axelrod said the Vermont senator had done a "great job" and gone father than anybody anticipated. But he predicted two challenges ahead.

"The tests get different...and they get harder as the race goes on and one of those is, do you have the dimensionality to be president? And it's not just about making a speech. It's about how you relate to people," Axelrod told moderator John Dickerson. "

The other challenge, he said, is that Sanders "doesn't have a relationship with minority communities because of the state from which he comes and you can see that in polling in states like South Carolina, Nevada and elsewhere."

He said Vice President Joe Biden, who is considering a presidential bid, is "utterly authentic."

"He says what he means and he says what he feels and I think we ought to listen to what he's been saying lately. I don't think he is playing a game when he says that he doesn't know if he has the emotional reserves to run a presidential race," he said.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.