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Axelrod: Clinton needs to ‘untether’ from her talking points

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SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Former top Obama adviser David Axelrod told The Hill on Tuesday that Hillary Clinton needs to be less scripted and more open if she’s to bounce back from a rough few months on the campaign trail.

In a brief interview outside the Reagan Library ahead of Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate, Axelrod said Clinton “needs to untether herself from the teleprompters and talking points and genuinely interact in real terms with people.”

“If she does, she’ll do well,” Axelrod said. “If she doesn’t, it will be harder.”

Axelrod has been critical of the Clinton campaign, mocking them over Twitter for a story in The New York Times about her plan to “show more authenticity and spontaneity.”

Axelrod was also critical of Clinton’s handling of the revelation that she used a personal email address and server as secretary of State.

The steady drip of news on the matter has kept the issue fresh in the minds of voters and has likely contributed to polls that show a majority no longer find her honest or trustworthy.

“Frankly, her handling of it hasn’t been impeccable in any sense of the word, so she’s abetted that,” Axelrod said. “When you have crises in politics, it’s important to get to the bottom quickly and don’t drag it out over a period of months.”

He said the issue is likely not going anywhere, because “there are folks on the other side eager to see it prolonged.”

“I think that the Republicans will insist it’s here to stay,” Axelrod said. “They think they have an issue and will keep it going.”

Still, Axelrod, a veteran of both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns, including the 2008 primary against Clinton, said Clinton is being underestimated. She maintains a big lead in the polls nationally and has the support of nearly the entire Democratic establishment.

“I think you should take every opponent seriously, but I think she has assets that are undervalued in this when you look past the first two contests,” he said.

{mosads}Clinton faces a serious challenge from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has seized much of the energy on the left. He’s opened up a big lead over Clinton in New Hampshire and has caught her in Iowa, the first two states to vote in the primary.

In 2008, Clinton finished third in the Iowa caucuses, beginning a downward slide in which she’d eventually lose the nomination to Obama.

“I think her organization in Iowa is good, better than it was eight years ago,” Axelrod said.

The race for the Democratic nomination could still be shaken up by the entrance of Vice President Biden.

Biden is grieving the loss of his son and has said he will only run if he and his family are strong enough emotionally to handle the political grind.

“I don’t know [if he’ll run],” Axelrod said. “I think Joe Biden, first and foremost, is a very forthright, candid, honest guy. I take him at his word when he says what he’s struggling with whether he has the emotional wherewithal, given everything that’s happened this year, to jump into the presidential race. Only he and his family can answer that question.”

Axelrod called Biden’s appearance on the “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert, in which the vice president opened up about how grief was weighing on his decision to run, “extraordinary and moving.”

“That’s the guy I’ve known over these past seven years,” Axelrod said. “I feel for him. It’s a tough situation.”

Tags David Axelrod Hillary Clinton Joe Biden

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