(CBS News) President Obama understands the U.S. economy needs help and his remark that "the private sector is doing fine" is not contradictory to that "in the minds of most Americans," Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod said Monday.
At a press conference he called on Friday to press Congress to do more to stimulate the sluggish economy, the president noted that the U.S. has created 4.3 million jobs in the past 27 months and "the private sector is doing fine," but government hiring is weak.
After rival Mitt Romney and other Republicans called the remark evidence the president is "out-of-touch," Mr. Obama later backtracked, saying it is "absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine, that's the reason I had the press conference."
In an interview with "CBS This Morning," Axelrod said the controversy is manufactured.
"This is the kind of thing that we do in campaigns. Your community and my community. We get all excited about it. The question is what it means. Is there transcendent meaning to it in November? Will people be making judgments on this? No, they are going to judge what the president has done," Axelrod told host Charlie Rose.
Axelrod said the remark did shed light on the debate between the president and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney over what do about the economy, noting that Romney suggested that the economy does not need more teachers.
Romney told reporters that Mr. Obama "wants to hire more government workers. He says we need more firemen, more policeman, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin?"
"The American people did. It's time for us to cut back on government and help the American people," Romney said, referring to last week's recall election that kept Republican Gov. Scott Walker in power in the Badger state.
Axelrod asked "Does anybody really believe we don't need more teachers?"
"That we can keep whacking teachers and that we are going to advance as a country? That's a serious debate, and one worth having," Axelrod said, noting that we have lost 250,000 teachers in the last 27 months.