By Shira Schoenberg, Globe Correspondent
GOFFSTOWN , N.H.- With a still-foundering economy and Americans increasingly fed up with the government, President Obama’s top campaign strategist today acknowledged the difficulties the incumbent president will face.
“We don’t have the wind at our backs this election,” said David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to Obama and a strategist for his 2008 and 2012 campaigns, speaking to around 200 people at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. “We have the wind in our face because the American people have the wind in their faces. This is going to be a titanic struggle.”
Talking separately to reporters, Axelrod sought to downplay expectations for Obama’s quarterly fund-raising report, which is due out next month. While Axelrod said Obama would have a “healthy” quarter, he noted that fund-raising is difficult in the current economy and Obama canceled several events during this summer’s debt-ceiling debate.
Axelrod, who was also media adviser to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s campaign, said Obama will take responsibility for everything he has done – and he believes the president will win the election.
“It’s not going to be enough to simply point fingers of blame to try to lay on him responsibility for all America’s ills without offering prescriptions for how to solve them,” Axelrod said.
Axelrod criticized congressional Republicans for refusing to support Obama on any major initiatives – then criticizing Obama for being too partisan. The consequence, he said, was the Republican sweep of the 2010 elections which culminated in a Congress made up of “the most ideological, partisan group of Republicans in my life time.”
Axelrod also took digs at Obama’s GOP presidential rivals, who he said have been “cleaving very closely to the most strident voices in their party.”
Axelrod pointed specifically to an incident in last week’s Republican debate when some in the audience booed a gay soldier from Iraq who asked a question about the repeal of the military’s policy against allowing openly gay soldiers to serve.
“Not one person on that platform, not one candidate was willing to say, ‘Don’t do that, it’s inappropriate to boo someone who’s risking his life for our country, who’s serving our country honorably,’” Axelrod said.
Axelrod also criticized the Republican candidates for refusing to raise taxes.
“They’ve all sworn oaths of obedience to (anti-tax activist) Grover Norquist and his basic construct that we never again should ask not $1 more from any American, from any corporation, to help solve our problems,” he said.
The adviser added that the Republican candidates “have clung closely to the Tea Party line.”
Instead, Axelrod promoted the American Jobs Act, Obama’s $447 billion proposal for stimulating the economy through tax cuts and government spending.
The visit came as the Obama campaign is beginning to ramp up nationally and in New Hampshire.
Jim Demers, a New Hampshire lobbyist who co-chaired Obama’s 2008 campaign, said the campaign recently hired a state director, Pete Kavanaugh, and around six regional coordinators. It is putting together a program of surrogates, beginning with Axelrod, who will be promoting Obama’s agenda.
Shira Schoenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shiraschoenberg.