An interesting look at David Axelrod, a guy who grew up on the corrupt political streets of Chicago and has taken the empty suit Obama to the top of the world.
David Axelrod: Barack Obama's street fighter
Paul Harris, Saturday 4 August 2012
Early last month, a group of Democratic congressmen and women held a meeting in the Capitol in Washington DC to get an update on the campaign to re-elect President Barack Obama.
They had cause to worry. Obama's first term – and thus many of their own chances of being re-elected – has not been a smooth ride with voters. An ongoing economic crisis, the rise of the Tea Party and the cruel realities of actually governing, not just campaigning, have taken a lot of the shine off 2008's promise of a new version of JFK's Camelot.
But leading the charge to reassure the anxious politicians was a familiar, moustached, slightly unkempt figure: Obama's political guru David Axelrod. Perhaps no one else has been so important to Obama's career as this veteran strategist and master of Chicago's famously tough school of street-fighting politics. He signed on when Obama ran for the Senate in 2004, masterminded his historic win in 2008 and remains the president's senior adviser as he aims to crush Republican challenger Mitt Romney in 2012.
Axelrod had good news. According to leaks from the closed-door meeting he assured those present that the campaign was ready and willing to pour tens of millions of dollars into negative ads attacking Romney in key states such as Florida, Virginia and Ohio. Indeed, they have already been doing just that. Masterminded by Axelrod, the Obama campaign has been airing brutal attack ad after attack ad. One of its latest efforts featured Romney singing an off-key version of America the Beautiful.
It's been working too. Last week, a Pew survey showed Romney's negative ratings have sharply spiked in recent weeks at the same time as Obama's lead in the polls has steadily widened. With under a 100 days to go until the election, the Romney camp is under sustained assault and the cracks are starting to show.
What a difference four years makes. Gone is hope and change. In its place is a ruthless, hard-charging campaign machine unafraid to use its bare knuckles in the bloody fist fight that the 2012 contest has become. Inspiration has been replaced by perspiration. Hope for the future swapped for dire warnings of what Romney will do to America. Straightforward criticism has been backed up by the pumping out of innuendo and rumour. And behind it all is Axelrod, a man known to Obama's inner circle simply as "Axe". It is a fitting name for someone trying to take Romney's head off.
But the stakes have never been higher. If he loses, Obama will be lambasted as a second Jimmy Carter, a one-term wonder who promised much and failed to deliver. If he wins, then Obama might be free finally to deliver on the giddy promises of four years ago. But behind those factors lies something else. Axelrod, 57, recently told a reporter this race will be his last. "I have one campaign left," he said. Clearly, by hook or by crook, Axelrod intends to go out on a winning note.
Obama would have trouble tying his shoes each morning if not for Axelrod. This is the man behind the curtain. He is the great and powerful Oz.