Axelrod: 2010 Holds Lessons for Obama Re-Election Campaign

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Two days after President Obama launched his reelection campaign, senior campaign strategist David Axelrod came to New York to fire up the base by touting what the president has done for them. More, he came to tell them how much worse it can be.

Speaking in New York City at the 20th anniversary convention of the National Action Network, the Rev. Al Sharpton's civil rights organization, Axelrod pointed to the 2010 midterms as a cautionary tale.

Axelrod pointed to a four percent drop in minority turnout from 2008 to 2010.

“People stayed home, and it made a difference," Axelrod told the mostly African American crowd, pointing to a four percent drop-off in minority turnout from 2008 to 2010. "And I think now people are recognizing the consequences of the difference that it made.”  

And he told the crowd he's looking to them to make up that difference in the next election.  

"I know that as hard as times have been for the country, they've been even harder in minority communities. In that environment, it's easy to lose heart," Axelrod told the mostly African American crowd.

“But it's also important to think about what's at stake. In 2012, people are going to have a choice," he continued. "It's not just Barack Obama that's going to be on the ballot. It's going to be things like Headstart, like Pell grants, it's going to be things that are going to make a big difference for young people."

One of the midterm consequences he mentioned was the election of Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin. But he pointed to another election there — the surprisingly close Supreme Court election there on Tuesday — as reason for hope. 

"It told me that the atmosphere in Wisconsin has changed dramatically," he said. "If you reran the same race that you ran in November, [Scott Walker] would lose and not by a few votes. I think independent voters have seen enough to know they're uncomfortable. I think democratic voters are mobilized. And I think that's a microcosm of what's going on in many places around the country.” 

And as Axelrod laid out his case for why the crowd should get reenergized and ready to hit the streets to register and mobilize voters, it was clear that the campaign he's planning for Obama will focus on his record. Axelrod didn't lay out big plans or program specifics that would gin up this base. Instead, he repeatedly referred to the Obama administration with words like "fair," "reasonable," and "proper." 

"Fundamentally, I think, people understand that he's working hard to deal with some very tough problems. He's moving the country forward. He's doing it thoughtfully, he's doing it reasonably," Axelrod told reporters when asked about the reelection campaign's message.

And beyond his particular policy positions, then there's that once-in-a-generation charisma that Obama flashed in 2008. Axelrod's counting that four years later, that shine will will stoke the same energy to get the turnout he needs to win.

“I think the American people — there's something about this president that they fundamentally respond to," Axelrod said. "That has to do with his governing character and not just any one specific issue."