While clearly focused on re-electing President Barack Obama in November, David Axelrod, the president’s senior campaign adviser, said the election will have impact on the economy and other policies for years to come.
Speaking to a packed house at Benedictine University’s Krasa Student Center, Axelrod told the crowd that voters have a choice in November to choose one of two “fundamental theories” about the direction of the nation.
“The future we’re debating is the future young people are going to live in,” he said.
Continuing Obama policies would strengthen the nation’s economic recovery by growing the middle class and make sure that “everyone is playing by the same rules,” he said. A second term would ensure continued investments in education, alternative sources of energy and industrial research and development, Axelrod told reporters prior to addressing the public.
Going with a Romney-led economy would mean fewer rules for Wall Street and continued breaks for the wealthiest Americans and a return to what Axelrod called the “failed economic policies” of the Bush administration.
“They believe it will somehow all work itself out … but it was tested in the last decade and it failed,” Axelrod said.
Another Obama term would lay the groundwork for a stronger economy, particularly in light of an Associated Press released Monday which indicated that half of recent college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed. Axelrod said creating jobs for those recent graduates and other job seekers will be a long-term challenge for the administration.
With so many issues at stake, including the economy and student loan debt, Axelrod said it’s important to for Obama to re-energize the under 30 voting base that turned out in force for his 2008 campaign.
Axelrod told the young people in the audience he hopes some of them will become committed to public service because they need to shape the future, much like he said Obama has done throughout his career.
Sharing often amusing anecdotes of his career as a Democratic campaign consultant, Axelrod informed the packed room that he is not as politically partisan as people might think. As a youngster he distributed literature for a liberal Republican mayoral candidate in New York City.
As a 5-year-old in New York, the political bug took hold of Axelrod after hearing John F. Kennedy speak. At 9, he worked on his first campaign, passing out literature for Robert Kennedy’s Senate campaign. After coming to college in Chicago, Axelrod began to cover politics as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune.
After helping get Paul Simon successfully elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984, Axelrod realized he could make a living as a campaign consultant. Over time, Axelrod helped more than 150 candidates get elected to state and local offices in Illinois, including Chicago’s first black mayor, Harold Washington in 1983.
In 2008, Axelrod played a crucial role in the successful election campaign of the nation’s first black president. Throughout his talk, Axelrod spoke fondly of Obama, praising him as a man of vision and integrity and calling him someone who wanted to “do something rather than be something.” He said he saw in Obama some of the same qualities he saw in Paul Simon and the Kennedys.
While Axelrod racked up an impressive resume as a campaign consultant, Former Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan, who established the Center for Civic Leadership, quipped that he was able to beat an Axelrod candidate when he successfully ran for attorney general in 1994.
“As good as a campaign consultant as (Axelrod) is, even he can slip up,” Ryan quipped.