“I’m so mad, I want to kick his butt,” said nominal supporter Cynthia Brill, who was attending the panel discussions and earnest disquisitions with her husband Steve, the journalist and high-tech entrepreneur. “They think everything is just fine—they don’t seem to know what’s going on.”

Outside of Axelrod’s hearing, Brill, a lawyer, told me that even before the outcome of the debt-limit negotiations is known, Obama has given up far too much in his back and forth with congressional Republicans over increasing the U.S. government’s ability to borrow money and prevent a market-shaking credit default. “He’s already lost the battle,” she claimed…

A couple of hours later during his onstage interview, Axelrod heatedly disputed Klein’s contention that Obama has been a passive leader and a poor salesman for his successes. Klein said Obama “is the first president I’ve ever encountered that has given the voters three tax cuts and never told them about it. What’s up with that?”

Axelrod argued that his boss’s leadership efforts are focused on results, not style, and that history will judge Obama’s accomplishments kindly. As for the next election, Axelrod said the president’s Republican opponent will be the winner of a primary battle between “the Tea Party” and “the Martini Party” wings of the GOP. “I’m not saying that Mitt Romney”—a Mormon teetotaler—“had a martini,” he quipped.