President Obama's senior political strategist said Thursday that Vice President Biden's job in that evening's debate was to pin down Mitt Romney's running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on the ticket's policy specifics.
"I think the big challenge for him is to pin Congressman Ryan down," Axelrod told CBS News on Thursday. "You know, he was on television a couple of weeks ago and he was asked to explain Gov. Romney's tax plan and he said, 'I don't have enough time to explain it. It's too complicated to explain.' He's got 90 minutes tonight. So hopefully he'll have enough time to explain it and explain how they won't explode the budget and put a new burden on the middle class."
"If he thinks he's going to hold him to account for the positions that Gov. Romney has taken in this campaign, their collective record, their approach to issues, well then maybe so," Axelrod said. "But Harry Truman said, 'I don't give them hell, I just tell it like it is and they feel they are in hell.' Maybe Congressman Ryan is feeling the pressure of their own position."
Axelrod also dismissed concerns of a tightening race in light of new polls that show Mitt Romney pulling to a national lead and the president's leads eroding in crucial swing states. In a New York Times/CBS News poll released Thursday morning, Romney had pulled ahead to a slight lead in Colorado, while the president's advantage in Wisconsin and Virginia had narrowed. An NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll found Romney gains in Ohio, Virginia and Florida.
But Axelrod said Thursday that he doesn't "think there's a slide in the polls."
"I think it was mostly last week. These polls that you conducted don't measure the days since the debate, they measure from what happened before the debate to after," Axelrod said. "I don't think there's big momentum. There's no doubt Gov. Romney collected a couple of points, mostly Republican-leaning independents, as a result of the last debate."
And Axelrod dismissed criticism by Republicans, including Gov. Romney, of the administration's handling of the terrorist attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four foreign service officers dead, saying the administration was fully committed to finding out what happened. Axelrod called the criticism "absolute nonsense."
"No one has any greater interest than the president to get to the bottom of this," Axelrod said. "He feels a sense of responsibility for every diplomat we send overseas. We want to get to the bottom of it and bring to justice those people who are responsible for the assassination of this ambassador, and that's what we're going to do."