Republicans pounce on Obama’s ‘doing fine’ comment about private sector

Holly Bailey
The Ticket

Mitt Romney and his GOP allies pounced on President Obama's declaration Friday that the private sector is "doing fine," suggesting the president's comments are more proof that he's "out of touch" with the country's economic struggles.

Within minutes of Obama's remarks at a White House morning news conference, the Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee launched a full-court assault slamming the president—an effort led by Romney himself.

Speaking at a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Romney characterized Obama as divorced from reality when it comes to the economy.

"I think he's defining what it means to be detached and out of touch with the American people," Romney said. "For the president of the United States to stand up and say the private sector is doing fine is going to go down in history. It's an extraordinary miscalculation and misunderstanding by a president who is out of touch."

Sensing that Obama's words could be the kind of major political gaffe that might come to haunt his re-election bid, the GOP quickly moved into motion in hopes of gaining a political advantage.

On Capitol Hill, House Speaker John Boehner and his deputy, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, held a press conference trashing Obama's "doing fine" comment. At the same time, dozens of GOP lawmakers and candidates around the country issued press releases highlighting their disagreement with Obama's sentiment.

In Chicago, Republicans attending the Conservative Political Action Conference leapt on Obama's remark. "The private sector is so foreign to him, he might need a passport to go visit the private sector," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said in his speech. "He might need a translator."

In Boston, Romney campaign aides quickly launched a Twitter hashtag, #doingfine, aimed at mocking Obama as out of touch—an effort that even prompted a message from Romney's oldest son, Tagg. "Do they really believe that?" Tagg Romney tweeted. "Or just trying to spin? Not sure which is worse."

In Washington, RNC officials swiftly organized a conference call with party chairman Reince Priebus, who called Obama's remarks "appalling." "President Obama clearly doesn't understand what is wrong with our economy if he thinks 'the private sector is doing fine,'" Priebus said.

The RNC also quickly issued a 30-second Web video responding to Obama's remarks, featuring newspaper headlines in recent days focusing on the lagging economy. The video is almost identical to a 2008 campaign ad that Obama ran against John McCain after the Arizona senator declared "the fundamentals of the economy are strong," even as the recession was just beginning.

The GOP response was reminiscent of Democratic attacks in recent months over Romney's own verbal missteps, including his "I like to fire people" remark in New Hampshire and his declaration after the Florida primary that he wasn't "concerned about the very poor," whom he said were protected by a government "safety net." Romney has accused his opponents of taking his words out of context—though he admitted in an interview last month that he regretted his gaffes.

Democrats have argued that Romney's comments are signs that he's "out of touch" with average Americans—the same argument that Republicans made against Obama on Friday.

Chris Moody contributed reporting from Chicago.