WASHINGTON -- The Obama campaign sees no major event that can now alter the trajectory of the election, the president's top adviser told The Huffington Post in an interview Thursday. And with President Barack Obama holding slim but discernable leads in several critical battleground states, there is a continued sense of confidence that a second term is in the offing.
"In my view we have got the lead and the ball and now it is a matter of executing the final 10 days of the campaign," David Axelrod said in a telephone interview.
"Governor Romney profited from that first debate primarily by recouping those voters who he had lost in his dismal month of September when they had such an uninspired convention and when the 47 percent tape came out," Axelrod continued. "But that is all that happened. We've had two debates since. I haven't seen -- in the things that I have looked at -- I haven't seen momentum since that time. I think the race has settled in, and it has settled in with us with a small but durable and discernable lead in these battleground states both in the aggregate and individually. The question is how does he change that dynamic now? There is no big intervening event."
"I'm doubtful as to whether [even the October jobs numbers] will be a defining event," he added.
The aura of cautious optimism is one that both campaigns are hoping to project, with each able to muster a slate of statistics to make its case. On Friday, for example, an ABC/Washington Post tracking poll showed movement towards Obama, with the contest settling in at 49 to 48 percent in favor of Romney. But that narrative turned just an hour later, when the Gallup tracking poll showed Romney expanding his lead to a five-point margin among likely voters, at 51 to 46 percent.
Axelrod and others in the Obama campaign see all this as largely irrelevant noise. For them, the electoral landscape has always been defined by certain states. And the campaign's entire operation -- a massive, expensive Get Out The Vote enterprise -- has been constructed to work within these confines.
Prior experience is the Obama campaign's not-so-secret weapon. In 2008, it had to put a ground game together in a matter of months. The campaign has been building for this election over the course of five years. And while the Romney campaign has made major progress from where Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) left off in 2008, there is a benefit to having this be your second rodeo.
"Nothing that they are doing makes me particularly nervous other than the pure force of it in terms of money," Axelrod said. "I am cognizant of the fact that there is more money being spent against us in the last 10 days of this race –- or there will be -– than has ever been spent against a candidate before ... it has diminishing returns, but it is something to monitor."
Of course, the Obama campaign isn't exactly struggling for cash. Each side has tens of millions of dollars to spend in the closing weeks. And while the world of Romney-backing super PACs seems poised to spend tens of millions of dollars more, the president's allies will be able to match a good chunk of that.
And so the election comes down, in Axelrod's eyes, to execution and messaging. But if virtually the entire political universe concedes the Obama campaign's adroitness on the former, there have been critics with respect to the latter. In particular, the Romney campaign has insisted that the president has no overarching or inspiring agenda for the next four years.
Axelrod, naturally, denied that, albeit while implicitly conceding that many of the items the president is pushing are extensions of what he did in the first term.
"What I would say is that, no one said that we were going to restore the American educational system to prominence in the world in four years or even eight," he said. "But that has to be the goal and we have to do things to get there. No one said that we were going to win the competition for the clean energy jobs of the future and help us completely finish the job in terms of developing our new sources of energy. But we have certainly have made huge progress.
"I think it is small thinking to say, 'well, four years have passed and he hasn't fundamentally transformed the education system so lets go back to trickle down. We haven't completely won the competition for the new energy jobs of the future so lets go back to more of an oil-only energy policy.' That is the wrong thinking."
On the other critical messaging front -- how to attack the opposition down the stretch -- Axelrod argued that there was no inconsistency with attacking Romney for his shifting positions and casting him as the severely conservative politician that he once claimed to be.
"I don’t think he is coreless," he said. "The issue is not that he doesn't believe what he is saying. It is that he doesn't want to say it in the last two weeks of the campaign. As the president said in one of the debates: My concern is not that he won't keep his promises. My concern is that he will."
UPDATE: 7:00 p.m. -- Romney campaign spokesperson Amanda Henneberg emailed over the following response to Axelrod's interview.
With 11 days left, the flailing Obama campaign continues to be on defense on everything from their ground game operation to their messaging. And with no record to run on and no rationale for re-election the Obama campaign’s closing argument has been to focus on the small things, while 23 million Americans continue to struggle for work. This election is a choice between the status quo and real change – change that offers promise that the future will be better than the past. President Obama’s misguided policies and broken promises have let down millions of Americans, and we can’t afford another four years like the last four. The Romney-Ryan Plan for a Stronger Middle Class will create 12 million jobs, result in higher take-home pay, and put America back on the path of prosperity and opportunity. And we are confident that on Election Day, voters will line up behind Gov. Romney’s positive vision for our country.
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May 8, 2009: President Barack Obama bends over so the son of a White House staff member can pat his head during a family visit to the Oval Office May 8, 2009. The youngster wanted to see if the President's haircut felt like his own. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Dec. 3, 2009: President Barack Obama fist-bumps custodian Lawrence Lipscomb in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building following the opening session of the White House Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth, Dec. 3, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
July 4, 2012: President Barack Obama holds a baby while greeting guests during an Independence Day celebration on the South Lawn of the White House, July 4, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
July 26, 2012: President Barack Obama holds a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, July 26, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Oval Office Chase
July 9, 2012: President Barack Obama runs around his desk in the Oval Office with Sarah Froman, daughter of Nancy Goodman and Mike Froman, Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics, July 9, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
June 13, 2012: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wave goodbye to President Shimon Peres of Israel on the North Portico of the White House following the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony and dinner in his honor, June 13, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
April 23, 2012: President Barack Obama tours the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., with Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor, and Sara Bloomfield, museum director, April 23, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
June 11, 2012: President Barack Obama talks with Betty White in the Oval Office, June 11, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Venus In Transit
April 24, 2012: President Barack Obama stops to view the moon and Venus before boarding Marine One in Boulder, Colo., April 24, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
'Sweet Home Chicago'
Feb. 21, 2012: President Obama joins in singing "Sweet Home Chicago" during the "In Performance at the White House: Red, White and Blues" concert in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 21, 2012. Participants include, from left: Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Jeff Beck, Derek Trucks, B.B. King, and Gary Clark, Jr. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
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June 11, 2011: "The top photograph shows the President having a water gun fight with his daughter Sasha on her birthday weekend at Camp David. Unbeknownst to me, David Lienemann captured a similar photo of the Vice President on the very same day." (Official White House Photos by Pete Souza and David Lienemann)
Dec. 11, 2011: President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters, Malia, left, and Sasha, right, sit for a family portrait in the Oval Office, Dec. 11, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Oct. 14, 2011: President Barack Obama tours the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Oct. 11, 2011: "This photograph by Chuck Kennedy has to catch your eye. It shows Guinness Book of World Records holder John Cassidy performing a balloon act for First Lady Michelle Obama in the Diplomatic Reception Room following a Let's Move event." (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
June 21, 2011: First Lady Michelle Obama meets with former President Nelson Mandela of South Africa at Mandela's home in Houghton, South Africa, June 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)
May 29, 2011: President Barack Obama greets Hugh Hills, 85, in front of his home in Joplin, Mo., May 29, 2011. Hills hid in a closet during the tornado, which destroyed the second floor and half the first floor of his house. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
June 9, 2011: President Barack Obama greets children at a day care facility adjacent to daughter Sasha's school in Bethesda, Md., following her 4th grade closing ceremony, June 9, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Jan. 10, 2011: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk towards the White House after observing a moment of silence for the victims of the Arizona shooting, on the South Lawn, Jan. 10, 2011. White House staff joined the President and First Lady for the moment of silence.(Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
March 7, 2011: President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia, and members of the Australian and American delegations look up at the presidential seal in the Oval Office ceiling following their bilateral meeting, March 7, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
May 31, 2010: "The skies opened up on Memorial Day outside of Chicago. When the lightning began, the Secret Service told the President that it was too dangerous to proceed. He took the stage by himself and informed the audience that his speech was canceled and that for everyone's safety, they should return to their busses. Later, he boarded a few of the busses to thank them for attending and apologized for not being able to speak." (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
July 20, 2010: President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron walk across the South Lawn of the White House, July 20, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
May 28, 2010: President Barack Obama and Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolf, left, inspect a tar ball as they look at the effect the BP oil spill is having on Fourchon Beach in Port Fourchon, La., May 28, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
March 21, 2010: President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and senior staff, react in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, as the House passes the health care reform bill, March 21, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
March 31, 2010: President Barack Obama practices his pitching form with personal aide Reggie Love and Jake Levine in the Rose Garden of the White House, March 31, 2010. The President threw out the ceremonial first pitch on opening day of the baseball season prior to the game between the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Feb. 1, 2009: "During a Super Bowl watching party in the White House theatre, the President and First Lady join their guests in watching one of the TV commercials in 3D." (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)
March 15, 2009: "The Obama family was introduced to a prospective family dog at a secret greet on a Sunday. After spending about an hour with him, the family decided he was the one. Here, the dog ran alongside the President in an East Wing hallway. The dog returned to his trainer while the Obama's embarked on their first international trip. I had to keep these photos secret until a few weeks later, when the dog was brought 'home' to the White House and introduced to the world as Bo." (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)
Moment Of Reflection
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Dec. 19, 2009: "Snowball in hand, the President chases Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel on the White House colonnade. To escape, Rahm ran through the Rose Garden, which unfortunately for him, was knee-deep in snow." (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)
Dec. 10, 2009: President Barack Obama looks at the Nobel Peace Prize medal for the first time at the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Jan. 16, 2010: "President Obama had called on the two former Presidents to help with the situation in Haiti. During their public remarks in the Rose Garden, President Clinton had said about President Bush, 'I've already figured out how I can get him to do some things that he didn't sign on for.' Later, back in the Oval, President Bush is jokingly asking President Clinton what were those things he had in mind." (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)
Oct. 8, 2009: President Barack Obama watches as members of the National Naval Medical Center's Marine Wounded Warrior basketball team play on the White House basketball court, Oct. 8, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Shoot The J
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April 21, 2009: President Barack Obama and Sen. Ted Kennedy walk down the South Lawn sidewalk at the White House April 21, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
July 10, 2009: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama meet with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on July 10, 2009. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)
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June 4, 2009: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recounts a story to President Barack Obama, Senior Advisors David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, outside the Sultan Hassan Mosque in Cairo, Egypt, June 4, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
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Behind The Camera
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