58 minutes | Oct 30, 2018

David Axelrod: Voters don't want a ‘Democratic version of Trump’

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. 
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