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Obama campaign argues Romney has turned off independents

President Obama's re-election team argued that Mitt Romney had threatened to drive independent voters away the GOP in the general election by moving rightward to win primary contests.

The morning after Romney failed to clinch the Republican nod in Super Tuesday's slate of 11 contests, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina and senior adviser David Axelrod painted the not-quite-nominee as having "leveraged" the general election with "tactical" moves to the right.

A prime example of that "leveraging" in their eyes? Romney's reaction to Rush Limbaugh's flammably-controversial comments about women and birth

Without prompting from reporters' questions, senior strategist David Axelrod mentioned the Limbaugh matter three times, calling Romney's response "timid" and accusing him of being "afraid to challenge the de facto boss of his party."

"If you don't have the strength to stand up to the most strident voices in the party how are you going to stand up to Ahmedinajad?" Axelrod said of his response. "How are you going to stand up to the challenges of the presidency?"

"The Limbaugh thing was a test of leadership, and you have them all the time. And Mitt Romney's failed those tests in the campaign," he added.

Messina said that the recent spate of primary results have not changed the campaign's five potential paths to 270 electoral votes as laid out last year -- a series of regional efforts that include pushes in the mountain west and the rust belt.

"If anything, our map has gotten more expansive and there's more opportunities," he added, citing the campaign's strong organizational infrastructure in swing states like Arizona and Florida.

The duo characterized Romney's apparent lurching towards the nomination as a sign of Democrats' strength in rebuilding the coalition that boosted them to victory four years ago.

"He continues to kind of grind out a kind of tactical victory, tactical victories in a kind of death march here," said Axelrod of Romney.

And both pointed out Romney's recent primary state losses among low-income workers and youth, saying that Romney's negative advertising has taken a toll on his appeal to wide swaths of the electorate.

"They appear to be appealing to the worst instincts and impulses. And I think there's a price to be paid for that," Axelrod said.

As for internal Democratic politics, Messina would only generally comment on Obama's record on gay rights in response to comments this morning by DNC convention chair Antonio Villaraigosa calling for making gay marriage is a part of the Democratic party platform.

"There's a process to go through this discussion and the DNC will go through that and we will have a platform," he said.

Villiaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles, said that fighting for same-sex marriage was essential to the Democratic Party's identity.

"I do, I think it's basic to who we are," he said at a breakfast sponsored by Politico.