Politics

Axelrod Hints of Obama Smack -Back To Come

After Barack Obama's speech in San Antonio (after he lost Ohio but before he knew he lost the primary in Texas), his chief strategist David Axelrod spoke briefly to The Bourbon Room about the outcome of Super Tuesday Part II and the campaign ahead.

Here is the transcript:

First The Bourbon Room asked how Obama's camp would deal with the perception that Clinton has slowed Obama's momentum and fought herself back into the race:

"Well, that's a perception that they're spinning, but they set their own test. It's not our delegate riff, they started the delegate riff. Their delegate riff was that "We are going to wipe out the delegate lead on March 4." The fact is they haven't changed their situation at all. They may have changed perceptions a little bit. We don't know what's happening here in Texas, we'll see what happens in Texas, but we're probably going to win the delegate fight here in Texas. Ultimately, this is a race for delegates. We've got a substantial lead. We've won 28 contests to their 13. We've won more popular votes. We've won in every part of the country. We've put together a coalition of independents, Democrats and Republicans. We've energized young people in a way they haven't been in a generation. And we've shown the ability to put together a coaltion that is going to take on John McCain and beat John McCain and that's why we're doing so much better than she in so many polls against McCain. I don't think this materially changes anything. It may extend the race, but I don't think it's going to change the outcome."

The Bourbon Room then asked: "They hit you hard, are you going to hit hard back?"

Axelrod: "I think we're willing to join the debate. If they want to define the debate in terms of the issues they've laid out in the past week, if they want to throw the kitchen sink, they're going to engender a response. If they want to have a discussion about ethics, then we'll have a discussion about ethics. If they want to have a discussion about who is prepared to be commander in chief, then we're going to ask the hard questions about the decisions that's she's made. If she wants to say she's going to be a steward of the economy, and talk about her accomplishments in public life, then we're going to talk about that. It isn't going to be a one-way debate. "

It will be very interesting to see how far Obama's campaign goes with its response/reaction to Clinton now. If Axelrod follows through on discussing Clinton's ethics, commander-in-chief qualifications and capability to run the economy in the context of hard, negative ads against Clinton, the campaign will cross yet another Rubicon. Hillary Clinton crossed one with the "3 a.m." ad and the risk paid off. The Clinton camp knew there could be a backlash among Democrats who resent using terror fears to make a political point. The gamble paid off as exit polling data shows the "3 a.m." ad helped Clinton reverse the slide and eke out a victory in Texas. Obama would run the risk, if he ran negative ads, of abandoning his "new brand of politics," but it might also prove his grit and determination to win -- something Democrats in and out of the trenches now question.

We'll see if Axelrod was venting or plotting. And we'll see soon enough.

Mike Emanuel currently serves as chief congressional correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in 1997 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent.