Axelrod on Palin

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In the Obama campaign’s first reaction (if you don’t count Gibbs and Biden on the morning shows and the traveling staff’s guffaws watching the speech last night) David Axelrod came back on the plane and gaggled with us about Palin’s speech before taking off to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Obama watched part, but not all of Palin’s speech. The candidate was unsurprised by the attacks, as he wasn’t expecting “gingerly treatment,” Axlerod said.

Axelrod said they remain unwilling to directly attack Palin’s experience, simply saying, “We respect her, she’s a skilled politician as she proved last night… She’s the governor of a state, we’re not arguing about that.” Although he then went on to say: “She’s deft at going on the attack. For someone who makes the point that she’s not from Washington, she looks very much like she’d fit in well there.” And in subtle ways he suggested she’s a little naïve. When talking about Palin’s attacks on Obama’s thin legislative record, for example, Axelrod said: “Maybe that’s what she was told, but she should talk to Senator Lugar, talk to Senator Coburn, talk to the people across the aisle in Illinois where he passed dozens of major laws… I think that she had an assignment and she went out and she discharged it.”

Axelrod discounted Giuliani and Palin’s attacks on Obama’s community service. “This is what politicians do when they don’t have a record to run on but in terms of the community organizing thing,” he said, “I think that was lost on a lot of people and secondly they can demean service in the community but I think most people appreciate it.”

He did his best to focus on the issues, or what he called a lack thereof on the Republican side. “Ultimately, the question is: where are you going to lead this country? Barack Obama has been very specific on where he’s going to lead and how he’s going to change the policies that are in place and Governor Palin has made it clear she wants to keep those policies in place. So if you believe the Rick Davis notion that it’s not about anything substantive, it’s all about personality, and maybe they do believe that, then I’m sure they’re happy,” he said.

To be fair, most of the guffawing came at CNN’s chyrons which gave us useful information along the lines of: Fred Thompson is an actor and returned to his acting career after his failed presidential bid (ie: this guy can ham it up), Giuliani is a lobbyist, Lieberman lost the 2004 race for the Dem nomination and was forced to leave the party after losing his primary on 2006 (ie: he’s bitter) and wonderful stats on the worst GOP presidents and all of the losers’ failed races.

The McCain campaign put out this statement in response to Axelrod’s remarks:

“Governor Sarah Palin last night talked about her record, her vision, and the choice that America has in this election. For the Obama campaign to suggest that she is simply being told what to do is offensive and takes our country backward. It is clear that the Obama campaign doesn’t have much experience with candidates who do more than read speeches and echo talking points. Perhaps that explains their inability to cope with Governor Palin’s record of reform and accomplishment.” –Jill Hazelbaker, McCain-Palin Communications Director