Axelrod says Romney failed the Rush Limbaugh test: ‘How are you going to stand up to Ahmadinejad?’

David Axelrod. (White House flickr)
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On a conference call that was mostly about Mitt Romney's Super Tuesday performance, President Obama's top campaign adviser said the presumptive Republican nominee failed a test of leadership in his response to Rush Limbaugh's comments about Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke.

"If you don't have the strength to stand up to the most strident voices in your party, how are you going to stand up to Ahmadinejad?" asked David Axelrod. "How are you going to stand up to the challenges of the presidency?

"These are tests. Presidential campaigns are tests. You're tested every single day in different ways. The Limbaugh thing was a test of leadership, and you have them all the time. And Mitt Romney has failed those tests in the campaign."

Axelrod said all the candidates, but particularly Romney, were "afraid to challenge a guy who's the de facto head of his party."

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Joining Axelrod on the call was Jim Messina, the campaign manager, who fielded a question about why the campaign, for all its confidence, was "so paranoid" as to husband its resources even from the House and Senate campaign committees.

"As you have seen out there, there's unprecedented super PAC spending going on, tens of millions of dollars, all over the country, and we have to be prepared for that, and you're already seeing it," Messina said. "Last week, a super PAC put several million dollars on the air in the key states against us, and we're seeing that repeatedly all over the place. So we have to prepare for that, get ready for it, and that's what we're doing."

Axelrod added that the Koch Brothers and Karl Rove had already pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to defeating the president.

"The president has taken on some very powerful interests on behalf of people in this presidency," Axelrod said. "And the Citizens United ruling allows those interest groups to siphon unlimited amounts of money to run negative ads against us. We would be insane not to be worried about that. That is a big concern. I believe we have the strongest candidate, he has the strongest vision for this country, I believe all things being equal we will win this election, but money does matter. And the fact is that they're hoping to paper over their inadequacies by overwhelming us with negative ads, and we have to be prepared to deal with those."

Romney's campaign said today that they raised $11.5 million in February. Messina declined to give a February total for the Obama campaign.