By Seema Mehta
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
1:26 PM CST, March 7, 2012
Reporting from Steubenville, Ohio
As the Republican presidential candidates savage one another in the GOP nominating contest, advisers to President Obama said Wednesday his campaign is busy laying the groundwork for their fall campaign, registering voters, opening field offices and recruiting volunteers.
Next week, they will release a 17-minute documentary about the challenges the nation was facing when Obama took office and the work his administration has done to improve the economy since then. Additionally, Vice President Joe Biden will begin a series of speeches across the nation about the administration’s accomplishments.
"We're using this time to build while they're destroying each other," senior strategist David Axelrod said in a conference call with reporters a day after Super Tuesday, when voters in nearly a dozen states weighed in.
Front-runner Mitt Romney walked away with the most victories and delegates, but it was not a clean win, with the former Massachusetts governor barely besting rival Rick Santorum in Ohio despite spending millions of dollars more. Santorum emerged with three victories and Newt Gingrich with one, in his home state of Georgia.
Four years ago, Obama faced a lengthy primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. At the time, Democrats worried their eventual nominee would be badly damaged going into the general election, but now most political observers agree Obama was a stronger candidate because he faced such a lengthy vetting.
But Obama’s advisers argue this year's race is different, because of the relentless negativity of the campaign. Romney and his supporters are spending millions on attack ads against Santorum most recently, and previously against others who have threatened his campaign.
"He's continuing to grind out a kind of tactical victory in a … death march," Axelrod said.
Campaign manager Jim Messina discounted that Romney is winning in states such as Ohio and Florida, which will be critical in the fall contest.
"He's not winning these states – he's limping across the finish line," he said, and in the meantime, alienating independent voters.
The campaign declined to comment on their February fundraising numbers. Romney said earlier in the day that he raised $11.5 million in that month; Santorum has said previously he raised $9 million.