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Axelrod: We Didn’t Do Enough to Sell Agenda

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White House senior adviser David Axelrod — shown at an August 2009 lunch with Senate Democrats — acknowledged Wednesday that the administration did not have enough time to focus on explaining its top agenda items to the public.

White House senior adviser David Axelrod admitted Wednesday that the administration didn’t do enough to help explain Democrats’ legislative accomplishments to the public over the past two years.

President Barack Obama “didn’t have time” to focus on messaging as he tackled major issues that “came in rapid fire” as soon as he got to office, Axelrod told Roll Call during a West Wing interview.

As Democrats face potentially historic losses at the polls, Axelrod said the crowded agenda was part of the problem. “No sensible person would come here and, as their first act, embrace and extend the TARP and pass a Recovery Act of $787 billion and then take on the auto industry issue.”

But each of those steps was crucial, and their passage helped prevent the country from “slipping into a second Depression,” Axelrod said. Still, he continued, the result of taking on so many pressing issues at once was that Obama could not focus his attention on telling the public why each bill mattered.

“We didn’t have time to unpack it and do, you know, a few months on tax cuts and a few months on, you know, on clean energy. We didn’t have a chance to really take victory laps around each element of what we were doing,” Axelrod said.

“I readily concede that it wasn’t optimal from a messaging standpoint,” he said.

The White House adviser also acknowledged that the administration has struggled to demonstrate why Obama’s signature issue, the nearly $1 trillion health care overhaul, is a step toward fiscal discipline.

“It’s hard to explain to the American people how a program that expands coverage could be necessary in order to bring fiscal rectitude to government. But the fact is the reforms we made in Medicare are going to ... make an enormous difference in terms of holding down the cost of health care to government,” he said.

Congressional Democrats have long complained about Obama not doing enough to help sell the sweeping measures he asked for and they fought to pass, in many cases by just a handful of votes.

“The messaging has been terrible almost since day one. One of the best communicated campaigns I’ve ever seen and the worst messaging presidency,” one liberal House Member recently said.

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