Obama adviser David Axelrod needles GOP field

Published: Sunday, June 19 2011 8:50 p.m. MDT

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's chief campaign strategist is dismissive of the Republicans who want his boss' job, saying they are eager to criticize the Democratic incumbent without offering substantive ways to help the country.

David Axelrod says it's too early to start sizing up the competition, but he took on the emerging field of candidates when asked to assess the GOP's first major debate of the campaign season last Monday in New Hampshire. Republicans at that forum condemned Obama's handling of the economy and pledged to repeal his health care overhaul.

"There seemed to be a unanimity of antipathy toward the president," said Axelrod, who left the White House this year to return to Chicago to work on the re-election campaign. "I didn't hear a lot of ideas," but rather "a lot of pat partisan platitudes," he told CNN's "State of the Union."

Axelrod seemed intent on going after former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the perceived front-runner, and citing the support that former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a Republican who was Obama's ambassador to China, had given the president.

Romney, who sought his party's presidential nomination in 2008, already faces questions from his rivals about his record of changing positions on social issues including abortion and gay rights, shifts that have left conservatives questioning his sincerity. In addition, Romney championed a health care law enacted in Massachusetts that's similar to Obama's national health overhaul, which conservatives loathe.

"It's not unusual in politics for people who are ambitious to change their points of views on fundamental things to try and win an election," Axelrod said in the broadcast interview. "But that's not what people want in the president of the United States."

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