President Obama’s top reelection strategist conceded surprise Monday that Republican super PACS didn’t attack Obama far earlier, Mitt Romney didn’t invest much more in ground operations, and that the Republican nominee played narrowly to the party base in picking Rep. Paul Ryan as a running mate. …

Offering a lengthy dissection of the campaign, David Axelrod told a Chicago audience that he was “a bit surprised that super PACS, which spent an unbelievable amount of money,” didn’t hit television and radio with anti-Obama ads until May.

“Our air defenses weren’t ready,” he said, alluding to his side’s early lack of resources. “They gave us a pass, for whatever reason.”

At the same time, he was surprised that a plausible, distinctly positive image of Romney as successful businessman was not central to Romney’s media strategy until late fall. In part he ascribed that to Romney’s “Faustian bargain” to get the Republican nomination and tacking far to the right while also unleashing a barrage of mostly negative ads against GOP primary rivals.