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updated: 6/7/2011 4:32 PM

Axelrod: Obama 'calm' before bin Laden mission

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Associated Press

CHICAGO -- President Barack Obama was "very cool" before the military mission that killed Osama bin Laden, even refining the joke-laden speech he would deliver at the annual White House Correspondents' Association gala, adviser David Axelrod said Tuesday.

Axelrod, who left the White House to concentrate on Obama's re-election bid, said he had lunch with the president in Washington on April 30 -- the day before Obama announced U.S. SEALs had raided a compound in Pakistan and killed bin Laden.

The two worked on the speech Obama would deliver that night, including a joke about GOP hopeful Tim Pawlenty and how he'd be a strong candidate if it weren't for his unfortunate middle name -- bin Laden, Axelrod said. He said the president got to that joke and wanted to change it.

"It was only the next day that we realized that he had not only eliminated bin Laden from the joke but he had given the order to eliminate bin Laden from the face of the earth. But he was very cool and very calm and very collected," Axelrod told the crowd at a fundraiser at a Chicago facility for the developmentally disabled, where his adult daughter, who has epilepsy, lives.

Axelrod also said Obama would be ready for whoever the Republicans throw at him in 2012. Axelrod's comments came the same day Pawlenty rolled out some of his economic policies during a speech at the University of Chicago, not far from Obama's home on the city's South Side.

The former Minnesota governor said Obama was satisfied with a second-rate American economy "produced by his third-rate policies."

Axelrod called Pawlenty's visit to Chicago "good stage craft."

"He wants to replay the same formula that got us into the jam in the first place, and I don't think the American people want to go back to that," Axelrod said.