Video: Election wasn’t about one issue, say W.H. officials

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TRANSCRIPT

White House senior advisor David Axelrod and communications director Robert Gibbs react to Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts and the progress made by the Obama White House, one year later.

Read the complete transcript below.

CHUCK TODD, CO-HOST, THE DAILY RUNDOWN: Republican Scott Brown’s stunning victory means the Democrats’ eight month super majority in the Senate is now gone. Is the President's health care bill gone with it? 

Robert Gibbs is the White House Press Secretary. David Axelrod is the President's Senior Advisor. hey're here now for a Daily Rundown exclusive, together. We believe it's your first joint interview since you've been in that lucky ...

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: It may be our last. Let's see how it goes.  

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We may take it on the road, Chuck. We may be making , you know, a few cities.  

TODD: Fair enough. So, David, I'm going to put this first question to you. How much responsibility does the White House accept for Martha Coakley’s — for the Democratic Party's loss in Massachusetts?  

AXELROD:  Look, Chuck, there's an unbecoming habit in this town of trying to defray a responsibility, point in other directions.  And so let me say it was Robert's fault and I’m bitter about it.

No, look, seriously. You know, I'll let others assess responsibility. I think the main thing that we saw in Massachusetts was the same sense of concern on the part of middle class folks about the economic situation, about their wages being stagnant, about jobs being lost, about their economic security that's been in jeopardy. And this is something that predated the big recession that we're going through.  And that's something that we have to pay a great deal of attention to.  It is the focus of this President's attention at all times. And we have to convey that.  

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, CO-HOST, THE DAILY RUNDOWN: But, David and Robert, how can you interpret this in any other way that it is a total rejection of health care reform, given the fact that the candidate that won resoundingly, would sign his autograph, “41.”  The 41st vote against health care reform.  

How can you interpret it in any other way?  

AXELROD: Well, I  will just tell you this, Savannah. I think that there were a lot of elements to the message yesterday. Health care was part of it.  

I would note that Senator Brown didn't run one ad on health care in the entire campaign. I'm sure you know that. And he supported a health care reform similar to the one that the President was and is committed to in Massachusetts, and said during the campaign that he wouldn't repeal it.  

So I wouldn't make— I mean, there are messages here. We hear those messages, but there is a tendency in this town, not that you guys would do it, but to overblow things, even beyond their importance.  And I don't think it's about that one particular issue. I think there's a general sense of discontent about the economy and there's a general sense of discontent about this town. That's why we were elected. We are committed to doing something about it.  

TODD: Now, Robert, in our NBC/"Wall Street Journal" Poll, we asked sort of at this one-year mark, you know, has the President accomplished a lot, or a great deal, or only some, or very little?  I was struck that a majority of the country doesn't believe the President accomplished a lot. Look, you guys have a lengthy list of legislative achievements. Clearly, health care's not one of them, but you have gotten a lot of things passed.  

Why do you think the public doesn't view it as accomplishing a lot in this first year? 

GIBBS: Well, Chuck, I think for a lot of reasons. The first of which is change takes a long time to happen, certainly in this town.  And it takes even longer for the American people to feel that. The president didn’t have a first-year agenda, he has a first-term agenda. So while today marks the end of the first year and the beginning of the second, it's not even really a hallmark holiday.  

I would say this too, building off of what David said, there are things that the President has accomplished, whether it’s a credit card bill of rights, whether it's a recovery plan that's led to the first quarter of economic growth in more than a year, that same sort of anger and frustration that the President saw when he traveled in Iowa, and throughout this country for more than two years is still very pervasive today.  

I think that's what we saw most of all coming out of Massachusetts, is there's a tremendous amount of anger and frustration about where people are economically and whether this town is fighting for their economic well-being or fighting for the special interests well-being.  I think that’s what's ultimately going to define more about the coming political battles and the upcoming election.  

Look, health care is an aspect of it, but this is far broader than that. There's an anger and a real frustration. People’s jobs are being shipped overseas.  As David said, they're working harder, they're working longer, they're more productive, yet their wages are going down. That leads to the type of isolation and economic frustration that we felt for quite some time.

GUTHRIE: David, we're running out of time. So I assume you're not going to cede today right here on The Daily Rundown that health care reform is dead. So, let me ask you, what is your next step?  

Are you going to ask the House to pass the Senate bill as is?  Or, are you going to try to jam it through the Senate fast, notwithstanding what Senator Jim Webb, a Democrat from Virginia has said, saying that he thinks everything should stop, all action on health care suspended until the new Republican senator is seated?  

AXELROD: Well, you're right, Savannah I'm not going to discuss tactics here.  

I will say this. You know, the President traveled this country for two years and he heard from people all over this country and about their struggles with the health insurance system.  He believes that there's a real crises, and that's part of what middle class people are struggling with.  He believes we have to deal with that crisis. 

But we also have to take into account what voters were saying yesterday and what we've heard from folks around the country.  We will take that into account and then we’ll decide how to move forward.  But it's not an option simply to walk away from a problem that's only going to get worse.  

TODD: Evan Bayh said if you don't hear this wake-up call, then, you know, he doesn't know what else can be done. Do you guys hear this wake-up call? Do you believe this was a wake-up call to maybe, whether it's to retool your message, whether it's to get your message out there better. Do you hear a wake-up call on what happened yesterday?  

GIBBS: Look, Chuck, again, I don't think what Senator Bayh would argue is that we somehow abandon our pursuit on things that are important to the middle class. How to make college more affordable. How to make retirement more secure. How to create an environment for good-paying jobs in this country.  

Look, we won Indiana for the first time since 1964, because we understood the frustration, the anger that was out there, particularly about economics and economic isolation. We were with Senator Bayh in a lot of those events.  

I think we all agree that we have to work even harder on that and have the American people understand that the focus of the Presidents day from the very beginning to the very end is on their economic situation. He wakes up in the morning and he goes to bed at night thinking about how to make people’s lives better, how to create that environment for creating jobs.  How to get this economy moving again for real working people.

GUTHRIE: All right. Robert Gibbs, Press Secretary over at the White House. David Axelrod, Senior Advisor. Thank you for your time. And we appreciate that you seem to have coordinated your outfits this morning.

TODD: Yes, well done.

GUTHRIE: Looking good there on the White House front lawn.

TODD: Tough to deal with Robert’s pastels. I know that, David.

GIBBS: I’ve set the high bar for him.

AXELROD: Hard to compete.

GUTHRIE: Thanks so much for your time.

GIBBS: Thanks.


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