Q&A: Top Obama Strategist David Axelrod

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Jason Reed / Reuters

David Axelrod, U.S. Democratic Presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama's chief strategist, leaves following Obama's speech in Canton, Ohio, October 27, 2008.

I was lucky enough to grab a few minutes in Sarasota, Florida, on Thursday with Barack Obama's top strategist David Axelrod. Standing on a minor league baseball field as the Illinois senator delivered his closing argument to 13,000 screaming fans, Axelrod talked about his favorite campaign moments, the things he's worried about (low turnout) and the things he's not (racism) and why his excitement comes with a touch of sadness. Here is a transcript of our conversation:

If you win, what would you say was the defining moment for you on the campaign, the moment when you thought Obama could win?

Standing backstage at the convention when he was giving his speech and looking at that crowd and thinking back to the four days we'd had before where I think we clearly defined what this race was about, what he was about; I was feeling good that day. I also think, in a weird way, that Monday, whatever it was, Sept. 15th, when the financial crisis really erupted and Senator McCain said that the fundamentals of the economy were strong, that was a pretty decisive moment in this campaign. I think that kicked off a couple of weeks where you saw a real strong contrast between these two candidates and I think redounded to our efforts culminating in the debates.

This last week has been full of blockbuster speeches — enormous crowds, former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore, all the fireworks. You're laying it on pretty thick.

It's the last week of the campaign. We want to see and touch and talk to as many people as possible, we want to get up on as many local news markets as possible. We have an urgent message, which is: we need people to vote; we need people to get other people to vote. I mean this is momentum time. Because we're all about galvanizing people at the grassroots.

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