Axelrod: 'A Real Conservative' Is 'Unelectable' in 2016

Axelrod Focuses on Jeb Bush as a Barometer of the Republican Party

David Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Obama, said Republicans would lose the presidency in 2016 with a candidate who caters to the right wing of the party.

“The Republican Party will not be a national party, cannot win a national election, until they embrace the reality of the emerging America. I think one of the interesting subtexts – a thing to watch in the 2016 campaign – watch Gov. Bush, because he seems determined to stick to his position on immigration reform, and that is anathema to large numbers of the – at least to the core of his party,” he said during a discussion about his new book, The Believer: My Forty Years in Politics, at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue.

“He's made the decision, at least he says, he's either going to win the nomination on his own terms, or he will lose and the Republican Party will probably lose as well. I think their chances of winning will very much center on what happens with that experiment because what has happened in the last couple of cycles – conservatives say we've had center-right candidates and we've lost, so we need a real conservative, but really what they had are center-right candidates who made Faustian bargains and gave up their center-right status and submitted to the positions of the right wing of the party in order to be the nominee, thus rendering themselves unelectable,” he added.

Axelrod Blames Republicans for Breakdown of Bipartisanship

Axelrod placed most of the blame on Republicans for the lack of bipartisanship in Washington since Obama was elected.

“It was really his [Obama’s] expectation and ours that he would find partners when he got here and I think the Republican Party – you can talk about what his and our responsibility was for that not happening – but the main reason was the Republican Party, and I credit Mitch McConnell for making a very shrewd decision,” he said.

“We swept in a big, huge Democratic majority. I think the Republicans said, ‘fine, we’ve got an epic economic crisis, two wars and a bunch of problems, you guys take care of it,’ because they knew there was no easy answer to these problems and it was going to take a while to straighten out the economy and they didn’t want to be the co-author of whatever the solutions were and they were going to let us deal with it ourselves.”

Axelrod, Obama’s former chief campaign adviser, said the GOP’s lack of engagement required Obama to turn to his base. The more Obama turned to Democrats for solutions, “the more he became a partisan figure,” Axelrod added.

“They were successful in pulling us off that high ground of bipartisanship,” he said.

Axelrod Felt Healthcare Approach Was Controversial

Axelrod revealed that he advised Obama against taking on healthcare reform early in his first term.

Axelrod said he was “very fearful” about tackling the issue, adding that the Obama administration’s “healthcare approach was very controversial.”

“He said, ‘yeah, I know, but if we don’t do it in the first two years, we can’t do it, the system will go on, tens of millions will be uninsured, it will implode,’” Axelrod recalled Obama saying.

“Even as I was giving him the political argument, I wanted to just give him a big hug when he resisted. I always say I like him so much because he listened to me so little,” he said.

Does Obama Still Support Washington, D.C. Statehood?

An audience member received loud applause for asking Axelrod why Obama expressed support Washington, D.C., statehood but has not taken action.

In response, Axelrod said the current status of the people in the district is not fair. He told the audience there were a limited number of issues the White House could take on in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

“I don’t know that the president won’t take this issue on in the next two years. I can’t say that he won’t. I have no doubt that his sentiments are with you. Whether he can achieve that given the parameters of what he’s facing is doubtful,” he said.