POSTED: Saturday, June 9, 2012 - 4:56pm
UPDATED: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 11:06am
CNN — President Barack Obama's presidential campaign continued to pounce Saturday on Mitt Romney for his comments opposing more stimulus measures, claiming they show the GOP presidential candidate isn't on the side of teachers and first responders.
Jumping on Obama's assertion on Friday that the "private sector's doing fine" - which he later dialed back - Romney said at a campaign event later in the day in Iowa that the president is "pushing aside the private sector" in favor of more government. That includes supporting economic stimulus measures that helped cash-strapped local governments pay the salaries of some public employees.
"He wants another stimulus. He wants to hire more government workers," Romney said. "He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It's time for us to cut back on government and help the American people."
Romney pointed to the recall election in Wisconsin last Tuesday, which was triggered by petition signatures collected after that state's Republican governor signed a controversial bill stripping public employee unions of many public bargaining rights. Gov. Scott Walker won that race, which drew considerable national attention.
Democrats, such as party vice chairman R.T. Rybak, said Romney was arguing that "the American people don't benefit from firemen, policemen and teachers," reasoning the former Massachusetts governor was therefore arguing they were expendable.
"As mayor of Minneapolis, I can tell you that residents in our city understand and appreciate the important services that our firefighters, police officers and teachers provide," Rybak said Friday. "Our businesses, homes and schools are all better off thanks to the tireless work of our firefighters, police officers and teachers. Suggesting that the American people don't want safer homes, safer streets and smaller class sizes really makes you wonder which Americans Mitt Romney is talking to."
The Obama campaign on Saturday released a web video that highlighted Romney's quote, juxtapositioned against comments the Republican candidate made in a news conference Friday.
"But one of the biggest weaknesses has been state and local governments, which have laid off 450,000 Americans. These are teachers and cops and firefighters," he said. Republicans had seized on a different line from those remarks, when he said the "private sector's doing fine."
Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul responded to the video with a statement calling it "manufactured outrage."
"While President Obama wants to stimulate government, Mitt Romney wants to stimulate the American economy," she said. "President Obama truly believes the economy is 'doing fine,' which is why he is doubling down on his failed policies that have impeded job creation and economic growth."
Unions also weighed in.
National Education Association executive director John Stocks said in a statement, "It is appalling how Romney takes an almost disdainful attitude towards critical public servants like firefighters protecting our communities and teachers educating our children."
And Friday evening, the International Association of Fire Fighters released a statement announcing their endorsement of the president.
The organization's president Harold Schaitberger, said in a letter to affiliate members that Obama has advocated "funding for programs that have kept thousands of fire fighters and paramedics on the job."
As Massachusetts governor, Schaitberger continued, Romney "attempted to strip away the collective bargaining rights of fire fighters in the state and has repeatedly stated that he opposes and would zero-out the federal grant programs that provide critical funding to communities to keep fire fighters working and for life-saving equipment and apparatus."
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