A Tiger Ate the GOP: Talking 2016 With Obama Consigliere David Axelrod

If you're going to run a political campaign, it doesn't hurt to have David Axelrod on your team. The New York-born, Chicago-schooled operator shepherded a green Barack Obama past John McCain and into the Oval Office in 2008. After the election, Axelrod served as Obama's senior adviser until it was time for the president to run for re-election in 2011. Axelrod helped beat Mitt Romney in 2012, in what he says will be his last act as an official campaign operative.

Monday, Axelrod was in Dallas to give the keynote address at the Dallas County Democratic Party's annual Johnson Jordan Dinner. The Observer caught up with him before the event after what was arguably the most tumultuous day of the campaign so far for Trump, who was beset by staff changes and reports of troubled campaign finances.

The best thing Axelrod could say about Trump's chances was that it was still early. "I think [a path to victory for Trump right now] is hard to see," he said. "The danger for Trump is that the perceptions about him forming right now, once they harden, will be hard to change."

According to Axelrod, Trump's best chance at changing the narrative is the same one given to every losing candidate: Having a great convention. He points to Bill Clinton, down in the polls and beset by scandal in 1992, as an example of a candidate who caught the wind at a convention.

If Trump gets trounced, Axelrod says it could be a turning point for the Republican Party.  "One of the dangers of Trump is that the conservatives blame the center-right and the center-right blames the conservatives," he says. "More likely, if they lose the Senate and almost lose the house, those are life-changing experiences that will cause some introspection. The problem is, they've ridden these primal forces the last two elections. They've ridden the tiger and now the tiger is eating them."

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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young