David Axelrod challenged Hillary Clinton to get loose from her “straitjacket of inevitability” and turn around tanking poll numbers in early states.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) leads Clinton by 10 points in Iowa and by 22 points in New Hampshire in a CBS News/YouGov poll released Sunday.
Clinton, though, leads Sanders by 23 points in South Carolina. Bernie headed there this past weekend to campaign.
In an ABC/Wash Post poll out today, Clinton leads Sanders by 18 points in the general election.
“I remember eight years ago almost to the day when everybody was reading last rights over the Obama campaign. We had blown our opportunity. We were way behind in national polls. And, you know, what happens is that every donor in America becomes an amateur political consultant and very generous with their advice. I remember during that period a — one of the donors in Chicago calling — summoning Obama to a meeting, telling him that he must fire his leadership and replace it with people who were more familiar with Washington politics,” Obama’s former senior advisor told CBS on Sunday. “And so, you know, it’s — it’s a very uncomfortable place to be. But you have to keep your perspective in the midst of the storm and take the long view, make the adjustments you need to make and not panic.”
Axelrod argued that Clinton is “still in a very strong position.”
“If you — you know, Iowa and New Hampshire are challenging for her, but Iowa involves organization. If we hadn’t started organizing Iowa in March of 2007 with all the momentum we had, I’m not sure we would have won the Iowa caucus. She learned that lesson,” he said. “And my understanding is they’re doing a better job of organizing Iowa on the ground and that’s going to be meaningful in the winter.”
But, Axelrod stressed, “after Iowa and New Hampshire come a series of states with large minority populations where she has a decided advantage.”
“So, you know, 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. I think she needs to untether herself from the talking points, from the Teleprompters, from the polling, get herself out of this straitjacket of inevitability and really speak from the heart about why she wants to be president, what this campaign is all about. Authenticity is the coin of the realm in presidential politics and she needs to show hers.”
Vice President Joe Biden, he added, is “utterly authentic” while Clinton tends to present “absolutely calibrated language.”
“Authenticity is the leading indicator in presidential races. If you look at the last many presidential races, the more authentic candidate tends to win that election, at least in the general election. So it’s very, very important,” Axelrod stressed.
As far as Sanders, “he’s gone farther than anybody anticipated… partly because he comes across as a guy who believes exactly what he’s saying and is very passionate about it.”
But, Axelrod added, “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. That’s going to be a challenge for him,” he said. “But the other challenge is the one I mentioned earlier, he doesn’t really 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 and Nevada and elsewhere. He’s going to need to develop that to become a competitive candidate down the line.”