Axelrod Wonders Aloud About Clinton's Bin Laden Ad, Downplays Pennsylvania

The Obama campaign is not exactly acting like a campaign on the verge of a possible double-digit loss.

On a plane ride from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, Obama sat cross-legged, tossing peanuts in his mouth and leafing through a magazine as he chatted with senior adviser David Axelrod across the aisle. A photographer was allowed up from the press section in the back to shoot some photos of Obama and his wife Michelle. Behind the candidate, communications director Robert Gibbs contemplated a crossword puzzle. About three-quarters through the flight, Axelrod wandered back to chat with the secret service agents. Reporters debated whether or not to try and grab him, and then waved for him to come back. Axelrod waved back, and then with a shrug agreed to a little press conference.

With a bouquet of tape recorders at his mouth, he spoke of Hillary Clinton’s new ad questioning Obama’s readiness and ability to withstand the “heat in the kitchen,” and said its use of an image of Osama bin Laden was “curious.”

“It’s a curious thing to put Osama bin Laden in the spot because there are a lot of folks who would argue that had we not been diverted to Iraq that we would have had a much better chance of having subdued him by now,” he said.

As usual, he tried to raise expectations for the Clinton campaign’s performance in Pennsylvania while decreasing Obama’s. “They were brimming with confidence,” he said of the Clinton campaign. He said that the potential result of Obama losing by five points would amount to “a good achievement.”

Asked whether Pennsylvania was important, he said, “It’s one of ten states that are left. The other states will provide, in the aggregate, probably three times as many delegates. So they are all important. So it is just one more stop along the way.”

“We’re here,” he added. “Because this is where the primary is.” </p.

Asked if Clinton’s persistence was damaging the party, Axelrod said that she had a right to stay in if she saw a real avenue to the nomination. “If the only strategy is to try and tear down Obama, then that becomes problematic.”

Asked if she had a realistic chance, Axelrod added. “I think it’s very difficult.”