“Pure politics” threatens to block proposals to strengthen the economy and reduce the national debt going into the 2012 election, according to David Axelrod, campaign strategist for President Barack Obama.
“The only thing that keeps us from acting on many of these things is pure politics,” Axelrod said in an interview aired Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “The fact that we can’t agree to extend a payroll tax cut for working Americans is bewildering to me, and the only explanation is politics.”
Robert Gibbs, the former White House press secretary now serving as Obama’s campaign manager, promised “a very robust campaign.”
This is “the most challenging economy that we’ve ever lived through,” Gibbs said today on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “The president can’t do all of this alone.”
Obama aims to counter Republican claims that his policies have failed to create jobs and restore economic growth. The president plans to announce steps next month to stimulate the economy as U.S. unemployment measures 9.1 percent and banks including Citigroup Inc. have lowered economic growth forecasts for next year.
“His policies have utterly failed,” said Karl Rove, the former top strategist to Republican President George W. Bush, on the “Fox News Sunday” program.
Big Economic Hits
Axelrod set out the campaign’s position that the economy has continued to sputter even three years into Obama’s term in part because of Bush’s tax cuts and the cost of two wars. The world economy has been hit more recently by Europe’s financial crisis, higher oil prices in the wake of the “Arab Spring” uprisings in the Middle East and the economic harm to Japan from its tsunami, he said.
“We have taken big hits in the last six months that nobody could have anticipated,” Axelrod said. Bill Burton, former White House deputy communications director for Obama, said on the Fox program that the economy has added 2.3 million jobs since the president took office.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, named chairman of the Republican Governors Association on Aug. 15 after Texas Governor Rick Perry decided to seek the party’s presidential nomination, rejected efforts to blame the economic woes on Bush.
“The president’s been trying that for three years,” McDonnell said on the CNN program. “He had two years with a Democratic Congress and a Democratic president.”
Ed Gillespie, a former Republican national committee chairman, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Obama “can complain about bad luck. The reality is it’s bad policy.”
“The biggest threat to his re-election is the growing sense that this president may be in over his head,” said Gillespie. “You’re starting to see that take root with voters, especially independent voters.”
Obama’s job approval rating was 40 percent in a Gallup daily tracking poll taken Aug. 14-16 and it hit 39 percent the day before, the lowest since he took office. Congressional approval was at 13 percent, tying an all-time low, in a Gallup Aug. 11-14 poll.
Still, Obama’s re-election effort raised more than $86 million in the quarter ending June 30, eclipsing the combined haul of the 2012 Republican field.
Obama will lay out proposals for “modest” benefit reductions in programs such as Medicare to pare the deficit in the long term, while pressing Republicans to extend a 2 percentage-point payroll tax cut set to expire at the end of this year, Axelrod said.
The president will push for funding of road projects, bridges, education and research to create jobs and reinforce longer-term economic competitiveness, Axelrod and Gibbs said.
Obama will need to have an “adult conversation” with Americans on making the necessary sacrifices so the U.S. can compete in the global marketplace with countries such as China, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said on the CNN program.
O’Malley and other Obama backers urged Republican leaders to overcome objections from Tea Party activists who’ve blocked action on several joint proposals because of, as the Maryland governor put it, “their worship of tax cuts.” McDonnell rejected the distinction.
“The Tea Party wants the same thing middle-class America wants,” McDonnell said. “We want less spending, we want a balanced budget and we want to keep taxes where they are.”
Republican presidential candidate and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. criticized his rivals for the nomination in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.” He said they showed “zero leadership” during the debate over raising the U.S. debt ceiling.
Huntsman also said Texas Governor Rick Perry’s comments casting doubt on the theory of evolution and the human role in global warming were a “serious problem” that may lose Republican voters.
“I wouldn’t necessarily trust any of my opponents right now,” Huntsman said.
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