Obama, Romney battle reactions to small comments within big picture

Mitt Romney says he’s not looking to hire or fire teachers, police and firefighters, stepping back from a remark he made last week in a riff about the importance of smaller government.

The president doesn’t employ those workers, Romney told a Fox News host on Tuesday as he answered a question about whether he wants to cut such public safety and education jobs.

“Of course, teachers and firemen and policemen are hired at the local level and also by states,” Romney said. “The federal government doesn’t pay for teachers, firefighters or policemen.”

The comments may not soothe the people who were disturbed by the original idea Romney expressed in a campaign speech a few days ago, though.

In it, he criticized Obama for saying “we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers,” and arguing that, “it’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.”

Democrats are pointing back to the original words.

Romney “doesn’t even understand the critical resources the federal government provides to support the hard-working Americans who keep our streets safe and our kids educated,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said.

Meanwhile, though, the Obama team is still dealing with the president’s poor choice of words on a related topic.

In answering reporters’ questions about the state of the economy, Obama was making the point that private sector job growth was strong in comparison to the public sector. What provoked a massive response was Obama’s assertion that the private sector was “doing fine.”

This week, the president is back to talking about the economic “progress” his administration has brought about – and emphasizing that he knows things are not going swimmingly for the private sector. Some Democratic political professionals think that’s no real improvement, and that a shift in narrative is called for.

For their part, Romney advisors would like to keep the focus on the Obama narrative as it is.

“President Obama continues to prove that he just doesn’t get what’s happening when it comes to the economy, which is why more and more Democrats are deserting President Obama on his ‘doing fine’ comments,” Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul writes in an email.

Sometimes it’s not the big speech that people remember, but the small aside.

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