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Axelrod downplays Obama’s ‘private sector is doing fine’ remark

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Obama senior adviser David Axelrod on Sunday sought to play down the president’s remark at a news conference Friday that “the private sector is doing fine,” arguing that the comment does not reflect that Obama is out of touch on the state of the economy.

Obama adviser David Axelrod. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

“I think the American people are smarter than that,” Axelrod said in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.” “They understand the president called the press conference to say that because of the storm clouds that are rolling in from Europe and elsewhere, we need to undergird our economy, and he called the press conference to promote several steps he thought we needed to take to strengthen job creation.”

The comments by Axelrod came as the Romney campaign seized on Obama’s remarks in a new Web video, arguing that “No, Mr. President, we are not ‘doing fine.’”

Axelrod made the case that Romney “chose to jump on the word, but what was most interesting is how he reacted to the spirit of the thing, because his statement was we don’t need any more teachers; we don’t need any more firefighters or police. . . . I would suggest he’s living on a different planet if he thinks that’s a prescription for a stronger economy.”

It remains unclear whether the remark will come back to haunt Obama in November – perhaps, as former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R) suggested Sunday morning, in GOP attack ads. Axelrod on Sunday dismissed the notion that Obama did lasting damage with the comment.

“I suspect much of this will be of little consequence,” he said.

He argued that the election will be more about the future than the past, but that the Obama campaign intends to hammer Romney for his past at Bain Capital.

“Governor Romney has offered as only his credential really his business work; he doesn’t talk about Massachusetts,” Axelrod said. “But his main argument is, ‘I know; I have the secret sauce, I know how to get the economy moving.’ ... So it’s important to look at some of that history, because his future, his view of how we build a better future is very much rooted in the lessons that he has learned in the past.”

“And those are not lessons that are going to translate into progress for the American people,” he added.

In a separate appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Axelrod declined to answer directly when asked whether he agreed with Obama that “the private sector is doing fine.”

“Bottom line, is the private sector doing fine?” host Candy Crowley asked after posing the question a first time.

“The private sector — we need to accelerate job creation in the private sector,” Axelrod said. “One of the ways that we can do that is putting teachers and firefighters and police back to work, because those are good, middle-class jobs.”

“That’s the public sector,” Crowley interjected.

“That’ll help accelerate the recovery,” responded Axelrod.

Asked a third time whether he agreed with Obama’s “private sector” statement, Axelrod replied, “It’s certainly doing better than the public sector.”

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