Mitt Romney's campaign has launched a fusillade of attacks on President Obama for saying the private sector is "doing fine," drilling him as out of touch with middle-class voters.
Aides to the Republican White House hopeful rolled out a series of web videos Sunday and Monday calling out the president for remarks intended to reassure a jittery American public about the health of private business, but that backfired badly.
Obama called a press conference Friday to discuss the U.S. economy, saying "the private sector is doing fine" and suggesting the Republican drive to cut business and personal taxes is not necessary.
"Where we're seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government," he said.
Romney, who faces Obama in November's general election, blasted the comments as "an extraordinary miscalculation and misunderstanding" following a week of poor economic data that included a worse-than-expected jobs report that saw the unemployment rate rise to 8.2%.
Obama later walked back the comments, but the bell had been struck, and by Sunday Team Romney unveiled a web video called "Fine?" complete with repeats of Obama's comment, eerie music and a message that read: "No, Mr. President, we are not doing fine."
They followed up on Monday with a video of talking heads discussing the latest poor jobs data, and the message: "Has there ever been a president so out of touch with the middle class?"
Obama's chief re-election strategist, David Axelrod, took to the talk shows to stress that while private-sector growth was encouraging, Romney is against growing federal and local government and has opposed a proposal that would help keep states from laying off public-sector workers like teachers, police and firefighters.
"What was most interesting is how he reacted to the spirit of the thing, because his statement was we don't need any more teachers; we don't need any more firefighters or police," Axelrod told ABC's "This Week."
"I would suggest he's living on a different planet if he thinks that's a prescription for a stronger economy."
Financial results released by U.S. corporations have indeed shown substantial profits, and while companies are hesitant about taking on large numbers of new hires, they are adding jobs -- 82,000 last month, compared with the public sector shedding some 13,000 jobs.
Obama and Romney are neck and neck in their presidential race, with Romney arguing that his successful career as a former businessman and financier would make him a better choice for pulling up the economy.
Romney embarks on a bus tour Friday across six states, including swing states New Hampshire and Ohio, to bring his "Believe in America" message to American families and business owners, his campaign said.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012