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Obama campaign laughs off Romney attacks over 'doing fine' comment

“President Obama may think the private sector is ‘doing fine,’ but he can’t seem to get his story straight on the public sector," said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams. “Last Friday, he said the real weakness in the economy was state and local government employment – yet a month earlier, he touted the fact that government employment had fallen on his watch. Americans deserve a president who understands how to grow the economy and has a real plan to get our country back to work.”

The Obama campaign laughed off the Romney campaign's attempts to point out a discrepancy during a conference call with reporters.

“That’s laughable,” said Obama's Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter. “If you read the president’s remarks ... they are taking the president’s remarks out of context. The president was merely pushing back on the notion that we have some bloated government” caused by having too many teachers and first-responders."

Obama said, in the speech from which the quote on government employment last month, that he made the point to contradict the argument about "bloated government."

"Each time there was a recession with a Republican president, we compensated by making sure that government didn't see a drastic reduction in employment," he said just before the line used in Romney's video. 

But the video from Romney is only the latest in the campaign's attacks on Obama over his "doing fine" comment last Friday.

Obama was forced to backtrack later in the day after making the statement. Romney, on the campaign trail last week, was quick to pick up the moment in order to launch an attack similar to ones the Obama campaign has previously directed at him.

“He said the private sector is doing fine. Is he really that out of touch?” Romney said in Iowa on Friday. “I think he's defining what it means to be out of touch with the American people.”

Cutter shot back on the press call: “We welcome a debate about who's out of touch.” 

The campaigns have been trading blows on the issue since Friday. The Obama campaign pounced on comments Romney made later that day, in which he said he wanted to shrink the government’s labor force, including jobs held by teachers and first responders.

On Monday, the Obama campaign released an ad hammering Romney over his opposition to a plan to provide federal money to states to help retain local education and emergency response workers.

"Mitt Romney's economic plan? He wants to cut jobs for firefighters, police and teachers," the video reads.

It goes on to link Romney's stance as a presidential candidate to his time as governor of Massachusetts.

"During Gov. Romney's tenure, local government was cut dramatically," says Rob Dolan, mayor of Melrose, Mass. "We know that behind budgets there are real people," continues Carl Sciortino, a Massachusetts state representative, and Cutter echoed these remarks in the conference call on Monday.

"State and local government layoffs continue to be a drag on our economy…in a stunning moment of candor [Romney] mocked that idea," Cutter said on the call, touting Obama's jobs plan as a contrast. "[Romney] countered with a jobs elimination plan…saying we need to cut back on government, as if teachers, police officers and firefighters don’t help the American people."

Cutter argued that Romney is the one who does not understand "the truth" about the important role of public sector jobs such as police officers and firefighters to communities.

"We disagree with that notion that we’re playing into some Romney-created narrative that we’re all about the public sector; we’re about both [public and private],” Cutter said.

--Updated at 3:57 p.m.

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