msnbc | November 04, 2009
>> very much.
>>> joining us now for his first interview since the elections, senior white house adviser david axelrod . great to see you. thank you very much. what about the election results? let's get past the new york 23rd. democratic victory there. but pretty bad results, a sweep in new jersey for the republicans. and, of course, losing an incumbent governor, jon corzine .
>> well, i don't know why we drive by new york 23, andrea. i think that is probably the most relevant, at least to me, in looking at these results and trying to draw some conclusions from it. that was the only race in which national issues were really at play. i agree with governor whitman that new jersey was pretty much a referendum on the incumbent. and it was based on local issues. but here in new york 23, it became a great referendum on national issues. you're right. i heard you say, and you're right, that conservative republicans, governor palin and others, came and purged a moderate republican candidate. essentially replaced them with a conservative candidate. and they lost the seat. it's the first time in 140 years that a democrat what has held that seat, that a republican has lost that seat. there's a big -- there's a big message in that. understand that that democrat campaigned on the president's program. vice president biden was there the day before the election. so i think there is a har bbinger there. the message to other democrats when we campaign on a positive progressive platform to get this country moving again, we're going to do very well. even in hard core republican territory.
>> but when you look at the exit polls in new jersey , i'll give you the new york 23rd. but in new jersey if you look at the exit polls , there are some warning signs . how seriously do you take the fact that independents went down from 20 points in new jersey supporting democrats and were down 12 points in virginia? the democrats have basically lost the independent voters. and the obama coalition, the young voters, the others who were so enthusiastic, the intensity of the voters, just wasn't there.
>> i agree with you. that in those state races, that the -- the turnout among some of the voters who came out and helped elect the president last year was very, very low. and i think that that's one of the reasons why the independent numbers have changed so dramatically. the other is, of course, fewer people are identifying themselves as republicans today. a lot of those folks are now independents on races like these they still behave like republicans. our goal when we have national -- a national election in two and four years is to mobilize those voters who helped elect the president, to help keep his program moving forward. that's what you saw in new york 23 where actually the turnout was much better for a -- for a special election in the mid-term -- in an off year like this. we have work to do to motivate our voters to come out next year in those special elections . but i sure wouldn't draw too many conclusions from two statewide races with their own unique sets of circumstances.
>> is it going to make it more -- much more difficult for you on the hill to build the coalitions that you want for health care in the immediate future and there may even be a vote this week or saturday, you can bring us up to date, do you think the blue dogs and moderates are going to be wary of the white house lead on this because they see these warning signs ?
>> i think as the blue dogs welcome their new colleague, congressman owens, and remind themselves that he's the first democrat to hold that seat in 140 years, since egrant, and he campaigned on the obama program, i think they're going to say we're on to something here. if we stick with this, do the right things, get this economy moving again, get health care done, energy, clean energy , education reform , we're going to have a heck of a story to tell. we've done so many great things already that we can campaign on. i think that this should be reassuring to democrats. and i think it will.
>> i want to show you a little bit of the documentary that you were so heavily featured in "by the people." it was an interesting counterpoint flipping back and forth from election results to watching the documentary last night showing the excitement, the enthusiasm. i mean, it was a year ago that you took the nation, the feeling of excitement among obama supporters, president obama supporters, the feeling that you could accomplish anything. what have you learned in the last year? because if you look at the gallup poll now, not to be too much of a wet blanket on this first anniversary, the gallup poll says that 52% a year ago felt that president obama could control federal spending. that 54% a year ago felt that he could fix the political divide. now, that is down to 28%. only 31% feel now that the president can control spending. so all that excitement in the victory a year ago, is it -- i know you inherited problems far worse than anyone imagined. you and the rest of us. but now you own it politically, at least, as far as people are concerned. how do you recapture the momentum of a year ago?
>> well, first of all, that was a sublime moment. it's hard to recreate that moment.
>> you're right, a few weeks after that, not far from that site in grant park where the president accepted the news of his election, we were told by a group of economic advisers that we might be facing a great depression. and that the financial system might collapse unless we took some very significant steps. including a major stimulus program which caused us to have to spend money where we wouldn't have wanted to spend money. but the result of it is that we now have growth instead of the tremendous loss in economic output that we were seeing in the first few quarters of this year and last year. and we're moving in the right direction. so, look, we have the responsibility -- you're right. we didn't create these problems. but we have the responsibility to solve them now. and we're working to do that. and that carries with it some political burdens. but that's what we're here to do. we're going to get that job done. we're going to move this country forward. i guarantee, i mean, when you think about where we were and where we are, when you think about the progress we're making toward health care reform , seven presidents have tried. seven have failed. we have a chance to get it done. clean energy and all the other things --
>> expectations were raised so high --
>> we're going to have a great story to telecom next year. and in 2012 should the president run again.
>> expectations were raised so high, and with the economic problems now, what we saw is really an economic result last night. certainly in new jersey . that people -- people are inpatient. because they expected so much from president obama .
>> you know, it's interesting you raise new jersey . because the people who said the economy was of particular concern for them voted more for corzine than the republican candidate. so i don't know what conclusion you draw from that. but there's no doubt about it. we are governing in the worst economy that we've seen since the great depression. there are millions and millions of americans out of work. who are in our minds every day and they're our focus every day. but it's a difficult time. and there are -- there are consequences to that. i think what's remarkable is that even in those two states yesterday, the president had a positive job approval rating. and i think people fundamentally understand that he's working hard every day. they're trying to deal with a difficult situation. but no one expects anybody to be doing cartwheels and cheering and pumping their fists in the air at a time when we're dealing with such a difficult, difficult economy. the best thing we can do is keep our heads down, focus on what we need to do, and dig the country out of the ditch in which we found it. the economy out of the ditch in which we found it. if we do, and i think we are, everything is going to work out fine. but these are difficult times, and -- and we need to work through them.
>> david axelrod , we loved you in the hbo documentary. and we'll always have the new york 23rd.
>> thanks, andrea.