Axelrod Not Surprised by Tight Presidential Race

Though Superstorm Sandy has clearly thrown a wrench into the campaigns of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the president's chief campaign strategist says there's one aspect of the race that's gone just as he expected: how tight it is.

"The president won in 2008 with 53 percent of the vote with all the wind at his back, and this obviously is a much more challenging environment," David Axelrod said Tuesday from Obama 2012 headquarters in Chicago's Prudential Building. "The amount of money that's being spent spent against us is unparalleled in the history of American politics, and the structure of our politics in the country is very divided."

And because of those circumstances, scores of workers occupy the campaign offices day and night working to get the president's message out.
"We want to make sure that every single voter who supports us gets to the polls, knows what they need to have to cast their ballot and we believe, if we do our job, we're going to win this election," he said.

While Romney is even -- or ahead -- in national polls, the president clings to a very small lead in five battleground states. Axelrod denies there's been any unexpected strength coming from the Romney campaign.

"I think this is exactly the race we expected," he said. "I think Gov. Romney had a bad month in September. His convention was disastrous. The "47 percent" tape surfaced. That was disastrous. He recovered in that first debate, and what he did was he regained that sort of base Republican vote, particularly independent voters who lean Republican."

And if the race is as close as polls show, won't that mean four more years of gridlock? Axelrod doesn't think so, particularly if the president prevails.

"It's going to send a strong message to the Republicans in Congress, many of whom, I think, on individual issues would like to cooperate but they've been forced such party discipline for the last four years, as Sen. [Mitch] McConnell said, in an effort to defeat the president, that they haven't been able to do that. I think people are going to read this and say, 'You know what? We need to cooperate on some issues," he explained.

Next Tuesday will be Axelrod's final Election Night. After 30 years as a political consultant, he's stepping aside and next year will open his own political think tank at the University of Chicago.

"You won't be coiled in a fetal position four years from now in front of a TV set watching the returns come in," he was asked by NBC Chicago's Carol Marin.

"No," he answered. "I'll probably be opining off half-information like all the other people on television do."

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