Newt Gingrich said President Obama's call for Americans to “commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training" seemed "perfectly reasonable," drawing a contrast with rival Rick Santorum, who denounced the president as a "snob" for his comments.
Gingrich said Tuesday on NBC’s “Today Show” that Obama’s comment “strikes me as perfectly reasonable. Everybody in America is going have to get re-educated all the time because jobs are going to change, technology is going to change, and if we're going to compete in the world market, we both have to have the best equipment and the best training."
Gingrich and Santorum were both responding to remarks Obama made during a 2009 address to Congress during which he called on all Americans to commit to seeking some sort of higher education.
"So tonight I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training," Obama said. "This can be a community college or a four-year school, vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high-school diploma."
Santorum objected to that call on the campaign trail, saying the president wanted to steer Americans toward liberal universities so they would learn values similar to his own.
“Not all folks are gifted in the same way,” Santorum said at a forum in Michigan. “Some people have incredible gifts with their hands. ... President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.”
On Tuesday, Gingrich said that despite high unemployment, in some parts of the country many jobs remain unfilled because there aren't enough qualified candidates. He also suggested tying unemployment benefits to job training requirements.
"I propose that we add a requirement to unemployment compensation that you have to sign up for a business training program to learn some skill if we're going to give you money," Gingrich said.
Gingrich is not the only Republican to knock Santorum's comments.
“I wish he’d said it differently,” Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said Monday, according to The Washington Post. “When you look at what’s going on in other countries, China, India, the premium they put on higher education — we’ve got to do better if we still want to be the global leader we are.”
McDonnell has endorsed Mitt Romney, Santorum's chief competitor in the GOP primaries.
Obama also seemingly hit back against Santorum's comments during an education address Monday, although the White House later insisted his comments were general in nature.
“When I speak about higher education we’re not just talking about a four-year degree,” Obama said. “We’re talking about somebody going to a community college and getting trained for that manufacturing job that now is requiring somebody walking through the door, handling a million-dollar piece of equipment. And they can’t go in there unless they’ve got some basic training beyond what they received in high school.”
Still, Santorum is hoping the "snob" comments might resonate in heavily blue-collar Michigan, where voters head to the polls Tuesday in the state's pivotal primary.