President Obama's top campaign strategist said Sunday that the country needs to "accelerate" job creation in the private sector -- by hiring more teachers, police and firefighters.
David Axelrod made the comment as he continued to perform damage control for the president, who said Friday during a press conference that the private sector's "doing fine." But Axelrod drew rapid-fire ridicule from conservatives, after he called for more public-sector hiring to address private-sector economic issues.
"The private sector, we need to accelerate job creation in the private sector," Axelrod told CNN's "State of the Union," before adding: "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."
Told that teachers and firefighters are part of the public sector, Axelrod continued to defend his statement. "But that will help accelerate the recovery," Axelrod said.
Axelrod also pointed to a proposed small business tax credit and refinancing program as ways to help the private sector.
The political adviser appeared on two Sunday shows in large part to answer questions about the president's comments Friday, when Obama had to publicly backpedal after initially diagnosing the private sector as "fine."
Axelrod seemed to acknowledge that the private sector still needs help, but argued that it's doing far better than the public sector and continued to press for the president's goal of more teachers and police officers.
Axelrod said the private sector grew by 4.3 million jobs over the last 27 months, while the public sector lost jobs. He said the president's critics are "more eager to have a debate over an out-of-context clause in his remarks than the substance of what he said."
Republican strategists were closely watching Axelrod's interviews. The Republican National Committee on Twitter accused him of trying to avoid answering questions about Obama's comment, calling the CNN interview "awkward."
"When even your own chief strategist can't defend your comments, it indicates that your assessment of the economy might be wrong," the Romney campaign said in an email.
Meanwhile, the Romney camp put out a blistering new web ad, which features people talking about their struggles in the current economic climate -- and then plays the clip of Obama saying the private sector is "doing fine" three times.
On ABC's "This Week," though, Axelrod accused Romney of responding to the comment by pushing for fewer teachers, police and firefighters.
"I would suggest he's living on a different planet if he thinks that's a prescription for a stronger economy," he said.