For our post-midterms edition of Off Message, we talked to Corry Bliss and Charlie Kelly, the two men who led the largest House campaign organizations in 2018. This election, Bliss led the Republican-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund, and Kelly led its Democratic counterpart, the House Majority PAC. They talk about what went on behind the scenes, their biggest regrets of 2018, and where things go from here.
The strategist behind Obama's presidential campaigns gives his midterms predictions, shares his lightning-round thoughts on 2020 candidates and tells Tim whether he thinks any politician can recapture the Obama magic.
David Axelrod doesn’t like the path the country—or the Democratic Party—is on.
The chief strategist who steered Barack Obama’s winning White House campaigns worries that President Trump has laid a trap—and that his party is walking right into it. “Escalation breeds escalation,” Axelrod said in an interview for POLITICO’s Off Message podcast. “And within the Democratic Party, I think there is a big debate about how to deal with Trump because he has no boundaries. He’s willing to do anything and say anything to promote his interests. It’s a values-free politics; it’s an amoral politics. And so, there is this body of thought that you have to fight fire with fire and so on. But I worry that we’ll all be consumed in the conflagration.”
Stressing that “civility actually is a really important element of politics,” Axelrod criticized Hillary Clinton and former Attorney General Eric Holder for recent comments they’ve made, and described the backlash he has faced for urging Democrats to avoid confrontation. The best way to defeat Trump, Axelrod argued, is by nominating someone who can appeal to an exhausted electorate.
“I don’t think people will be looking for a Democratic version of Trump,” he said. “I don’t think they’ll be looking for people who can go jibe for jibe and low blow for low blow. I think people are going to be looking for someone who can pull this country out of this hothouse that we’re in.”
At his offices in Chicago, where he directs the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, we discussed Axelrod’s predictions for the midterm elections, the risk of overreach with a new House majority, and the strengths and vulnerabilities of the top-tier 2020 Democratic hopefuls.
The New York senator has a different word for the family separation policy which the attorney general and White House press secretary call “Biblical.” Her word is “evil.” In the Biblical sense.
Referencing the “devil’s schemes” from the Book of Ephesians, the New York senator said President Donald Trump’s administration qualifies for that label “if you were talking in Christian language.” “To me? Yes, these are all things that come from the darkness that are ripping children from their mothers’ arms. That’s outrageous. I mean, that is not a positive, good thing. It is an evil, dark thing,” she says in an interview for the latest episode of POLITICO’s Off Message podcast.
Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, says that evangelical conservatives are willing to overlook Trump’s past behavior—even his alleged affair with porn actress Stormy Daniels—so long as he delivers for them on policy.
“I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully,” Perkins tells us. What happened to turning the other cheek? “You know, you only have two cheeks,” Perkins says. “Christianity is not all about being a welcome mat which people can just stomp their feet on.”