David Axelrod: ‘The Whole Race Is About Polls, It’s About Money, and Less About People’

CJR interviews the former strategist, current podcaster.

CJR’s David Uberti interviews campaign-strategist-turned-pundit David Axelrod about his podcast series, The Axe Files. The turn toward CNN commentary and political interviews is more of a homecoming than a fresh new thing for Axelrod, even if some of the forms are new.

Uberti asks Axelrod to compare the then and now of political reporting, and Axelrod harkens back to the beginning of his professional life, when he was a Chicago Tribune reporter and columnist, to describe what has changed in the interim:

One of the things that’s striking to me is how much political reporting has changed since I was writing for The Tribune. And it was really driven home by this series that David Maraniss and Robert Samuels are doing for The Washington Post. That is what political reporters used to do. They would get in their cars and drive across states, and they’d go into taverns and bowling alleys and town squares, and they would come back with a deeper, richer kind of reporting than we often see today. The budgets just aren’t there to support that kind of reporting. So we take shortcuts. We write about this plethora of public opinion polls—they also are limited, and not terribly on track. The whole race is about polls, it’s about money, and less about people.

The Post project he is referring to, in case you’ve been too buried by the horse race to spend some time with, is The Great Unsettling, a four-part series in which Maraniss and Samuels spent almost 35 days traveling across the country talking to Americans in order to get answers to the questions, as they posed it, “What’s happening in America? What does it mean to be an American?”