Under fire from Republicans, President Obama clarified an earlier assessment of the health of the private sector, explaining that it's "absolutely clear" the economy is not doing "fine."
The president, in response to a question Friday afternoon in the Oval Office, backtracked somewhat on his comments his morning that "the private sector is doing fine."
"It is absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine. That's why I had a press conference," Obama said.
Obama's original comment drew immediate scrutiny from Republicans; Romney, speaking in Iowa, said the comment showed that Obama was "out of touch."
The president's initial remarks were intended to portray the relative weakness in public sector hiring -- an outgrowth of spending cuts at the federal, state and local level -- versus the private sector. The drop off in public employment has been a drag on the overall employment picture; the economy added just 69,000 jobs last month, a number that was so low, in part, because of anemic public sector hiring.
A variety of Republicans pounced on the comments nonetheless, proclaiming Obama as disconnected from economy, the central issue in this fall's election.
The president used the opportunity to take a shot at Romney and those Republicans.
"You know, and what I'm interested in hearing from Congress and Mr. Romney is what steps are they willing to take right now that are going to make an actual difference?" Obama asked. "And so far, all we've heard are additional tax cuts to the folks who are doing fine, as opposed to taking steps that would actually help deal with the weaknesses in the economy and promote the kind of economic growth that we would all like to see."