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MANCHESTER, N.H. — President Barack Obama‘s chief political adviser on Tuesday conceded that a dark cloud looms over the American economy and Obama’s political future, describing the president’s road to a second term in the White House as “a titanic struggle.”

“We have the wind in our face because the American people have the wind in their faces,” David Axelrod told an audience of New Hampshire politicians and business leaders. “So this is going to be a titanic struggle. But I firmly believe we’re on the right side of the struggle.”

But even as he acknowledged the stark political reality, Axelrod said the president would ultimately win re-election, in part because of the flawed field of Republican candidates. He characterized their plans to repair the nation’s ailing economy as the same kind of deregulation and tax cuts that caused the downturn in the first place.

“This isn’t new wine and old bottles. This is old wine and old bottles,” Axelrod said.

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He also assailed Republican contenders, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, in an interview with The Associated Press.

Axelrod took issue with Romney’s assertion that he’s among the candidates with the least political experience in the Republican field. Romney held just one full term as governor but has run for higher office four times since 1994.

“I don’t know how you define a professional politician, but running for office off and on for two decades seems to qualify,” Axelrod said.

He also went after Perry.

“He holds up Texas as a model,” Axelrod said. “You look at Texas and they have among the lowest wages in the country, the highest rate of uninsured people, some of the worst performance in their schools.”

“I think most Americans will look at that and say, `Why would we want to emulate that?” Axelrod added.

Obama’s campaign has said that the 2012 election will be a “choice, not a referendum” on Obama, making clear they intend to draw sharp contrasts with whomever Republicans nominate next year. Democrats have begun raising questions about Romney and Perry’s records both in and out of government, hoping to make the case that Obama would be best positioned to restore a middle class that has been battered by the economic downturn.

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