President Obama’s comment Friday that the “private sector is doing fine” continued to dominate television political debates Sunday, with surrogates trying to minimize the impact of his remarks, and opponents seeking to take maximum advantage, despite Obama’s retraction of the comment Friday afternoon.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a rumored vice presidential possibility for Republican candidate Mitt Romney, questioned Obama’s ability to comprehend how employment works.
“He does not understand where wealth and jobs come from. It comes from a successful private sector or not at all,” he said on "Fox News Sunday." "Government does not create wealth or income. It just shuffles it around and charges a price, a cost for that service or disservice."
Obama’s senior campaign strategist, David Axelrod, took to CNN’s “State of the Union” to defend the president. Without directly answering host Candy Crowley’s question as to whether he agreed that the private sector was in good shape, Axelrod said “it’s certainly doing better than the public sector.”
“The first quarter of this year was the best in terms of private sector job creation … in six years,” Axelrod said. “What the president has said is that we need to take some urgent action, and he's called on Congress to do that.”
Asked whether Obama’s comments would have a negative impact on his campaign, Axelrod said, “I think the American people are smarter than that.”
Romney’s campaign also debuted a new Web video Sunday, titled “Fine?” seeking to capitalize on the president’s comments, showing a series of Americans in economic trouble before repeating Obama’s remark three times.
“The truth of the matter is we’ve created 4.3 million jobs over the last 27 months, over 800,000 just this year alone. The private sector is doing fine. Where we’re seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government,” Obama said Friday during a news conference to promote his jobs proposals.
Obama later clarified his remarks in a brief appearance after a meeting with Philippine President Benigno Aquino. “It is absolutely clear the economy is not doing fine. That’s the reason I had a press conference,” he said. “That’s why I spent yesterday, the day before yesterday, this past week, this past month and this past year talking about how we can make the economy stronger. The economy is not doing fine.”