GOP seizes on Obama's private sector gaffe

(CBS News) WASHINGTON - President Obama's not-so-great week last week continued into the weekend.

Statements he made about the economy turned into campaign fuel for Mitt Romney.

Republicans continued to blast the president over the weekend for his remarks Friday about the health of the private sector.

Sunday, Ind. Gov. Mitch Daniels joined the chorus of Republicans denouncing the president's statement that the private sector is "doing fine."

"It's just sadly symptomatic of an incredible blind spot he has," Daniels said on Fox News. "He doesn't understand where wealth and jobs come from."

Mr. Obama had intended to blame Congress for not moving on his job bills - particularly the one that would give states money to hire public employees like teachers and first responders.

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He contrasted the loss of those jobs to job growth in the private sector, saying, "The truth of the matter is that, as I said, we've created 4.3 million jobs over the last 27 months, over 800,000 just this year alone. The private sector is doing fine."

That last sentence - taken alone - brought an immediate hail of derision from Republicans, and forced Mr. Obama to correct the record later in the day when he said, "Listen, it is absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine."

Even though the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the private sector has grown by 2 million jobs in the past year while state and local governments have cut 161,000 jobs during the same period, the damage was done.

And the Romney campaign quickly put out a web ad criticizing the president's comments. It contained the president's remark about the private sector over and over.

The White House has also been on the defensive about leaks of classified information in two recent books - secrets of U.S. cyber-warfare against Iran, and the targeting of drone strikes.

The administration appointed two U.S. attorneys outside Washington to investigate, as Republicans charge the leaks came from inside sources trying to boost the president's re-election chances.

"It's very clear that this information had to come from the administration," Ariz. Sen. John McCain said on CNN. "It couldn't have come from anywhere else, and Americans should be deeply disturbed about this betrayal of two of our most important highly classified operations."

Incidentally it was McCain, on the offense there on national security, who had an economic gaffe of his own during the 2008 race for the White House. Then-Senator Obama's campaign relentlessly highlighted McCain saying the "fundamentals of the economy are strong."

To see Bill Plante's report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Bill Plante

    Bill Plante is a CBS News Senior White House Correspondent

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