Image: President Barack Obama speaks during the first presidential debate with Republican presidential nominee Romney in Denver
Jim Bourg / Reuters

TODAY   |  October 04, 2012

Obama’s top adviser: President “told them the truth”

David Axelrod, a top adviser to President Obama’s campaign, responds to claims that the president was outdebated, saying that Obama “treated the American people like adults and he told them the truth.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> axelrod is a senior adviser to president obama 's reelection campaign. good morning to you.

>> good morning, savannah, how are you doing?

>> we all know the president is a fiercely competitive man, was he satisfied with that performance?

>> well, i think one aspect of the president he's never satisfied, he's always challenging himself, i think. but you know, savannah i was with you last week and i joked that mitt romney put more preparation into it than they did into the invasion in normandy and you saw last night. i expected a strong performance, got a strong performance, but that's what it was, a performance. the underlying facts remain the underlying facts. he denied what has been the centerpiece of his campaign, a $5 trillion tax cut . he again refused to offer any way to pay for it, and the bottom line is what the analysts have said. this means either he's going to explode the deficit or he's going to stick it to the middle class with a $2,000 tax increase. and if that happens, how's that going to move our economy forward or build the middle class ? so the fundamental distinctions on this and many other issues remain what they were before the debate.

>> let me back up one moment. it sounds like you're acknowledging the president was out debated and less prepared than mitt romney . why is that?

>> i didn't say he was outdebated. he treated the american people like adults and told them the truth, which was a fundamental distinction between him and governor romney . governor romney said i'll repeal obama care and keep all the good parts and i'll tell you later how i'm going to do it. we'll roll back wall street reform and we'll keep all the good parts and i'll tell you later how i'm going to do it. i'll cut taxes, but i'll tell you later how we're going to pay for it. defense spending , how we're going to pay for it, and fundamentally, this was his pattern all night long. but what i said last week was that i thought he'd give a strong performance, and he did give a strong performance, but that's what it was, a performance. the american people want the honest truth about where we need to go as a country, how we rebuild this economy, the middle class . and that's what the president did last night. and people respect that.

>> you know, david, a lot of your supporters were dismayed and frankly mystified to not hear the president go after romney on things like his remarks on the 47% of america. he didn't repeat bain capital attacks, attacks about the tax return , these are staples of your campaign. has he abandoned those attacks? or did he make a strategic decision not to be aggressive in this debate?

>> no, he made a decision to discuss fundamental issues facing this country. there's no doubt these are issues in the campaign. your past, your record are part of the campaign. governor romney 's past at bain capital is what he's running on. he made the remarks kind of writing off 47% of the country. but people know that, savannah, and what they were looking for last night were real, honest distinctions on the issue. the president gave those distinctions and did it in an honest way. governor romney did not. and he will be held to account for that i'm sure.

>> will he change his approach for the next debate? there will be a remark as we know. will we see a more aggressive president?

>> well, i know he's looking very much forward to the debate on the -- on the 16th. and i'm not -- i'll lead it to the critics to decide whether, you know, how his performance rates on that day. but i know this, he will come, he will make an honest argument with the american people about how to rebuild the economy and the middle class and he'll hold governor romney to account for these big gaffes in the truth we saw last night.

>> thanks for your time. appreciate