Axelrod calls Boehner ‘encouraging’ ahead of ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations

Senior Obama adviser David Axelrod said Sunday that House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) openness to new revenues in a deficit-reduction deal were an “encouraging” sign ahead of talks on avoiding the “fiscal cliff.”

“I think that the Speaker's comments have been encouraging and — obviously, there's money to be gained by closing some of these loopholes and applying them to deficit reduction, so I think there are a lot of ways to skin this cat so long as everybody comes with a positive, constructive attitude toward the task,” said Axelrod on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

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Congressional leaders will head to the White House this week as talks begin on a deal to avoid the impending fiscal cliff of rising tax rates and automatic spending cuts that economists fear could trigger a new recession. 

Axelrod said Obama’s reelection indicates Americans agree with the president’s plan to extend tax cuts for families that make less than $250,000 per year. “On this particular issue, it wasn’t close,” said Axelrod, citing exit polls.

“I think it was somewhere around 60 percent of the American people agreed with the president's position on this issue of taxes,” he said.

But Republicans have argued that they too hold a mandate to prevent tax rate increases, as voters returned the GOP to a House majority. Republicans have resisted calls let tax rates rise on the wealthy, which the president is pushing. GOP leaders would rather cut spending on top of closing tax loopholes and eliminating deductions to create new tax revenues. 

In his interview, Axelrod also looked back on the recent campaign, and argued that Team Obama never felt the outcome of the race against GOP nominee Mitt Romney was in doubt.

“There was this illusion of volatility created by this spate of public polls,” Obama’s senior strategist said. “But in our own data, it was a really steady race.”

Axelrod credited young campaign workers across the country who compiled statistical models that proved accurate when initial returns started rolling in. He said that led the campaign to feel confident by about 8 p.m. ET that Obama would be calling the White House home for another four years.

Axelrod also commented on Obama’s speech with his Chicago campaign staff on Wednesday. The president was moved to tears while thanking his staff, a rare show of emotion from the usually stoic Obama.

“I was standing 10 feet away and I was brushing away tears myself, and so were a lot of those young people,” Axelrod said. “He really was overcome.”

Axelrod, though, acknowledged the time for reminiscing is over, and said hard work is ahead, as lawmakers seek to move beyond the fiscal cliff before January 2013.