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Romney Puts Distance Between Him And Himself On Public-Worker Hiring

Mitt Romney seemed pretty adamant last week when he said taxpayers didn't want any more teachers, firefighters and police officers, suggesting that they wanted to see government at all levels shrink.

But given the chance during a Fox News appearance Tuesday to repeat the bold statement of just a few days ago, the all-but-official presidential nominee essentially took a pass.

After an extended skewering of President Obama for a gaffe about the private sector last week, ending with the charge that it was proof the president was "out of touch" Romney was asked by Fox and Friends' Brian Kilmeade for his response to Obama saying it was Romney who was clueless (Romney's comment comes at about the 1:40 mark) :

KILMEADE: He says that you're out of touch. He says you want to cut firefighters and teachers, that you don't understand what's going on in these communities. What do you say to that, Governor?

ROMNEY: Well, that's a very strange accusation. Of course, teachers and firemen and policemen are hired at the local level and also by states. The federal government doesn't pay for teachers, firefighters or policemen. So, obviously that's completely absurd.

While Romney is right that local and state governments do the actual hiring, the federal government did pay for teachers and other public-sector workers through the first economic stimulus Obama championed in early 2009. Economists and local officials say that federal spending allowed municipal governments to avoid layoffs, at least for a while.

Romney continued:

"He's got a new idea, though, and that is to have another stimulus and to have the federal government send money to try and bail out cities and states. It didn't work the first time. It certainly wouldn't work the second time."

Here's what Romney said last week. You judge whether Obama's accusation is "strange" or not, to quote Romney.

"He says we need more firemen, more policemen, 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 was alliuding there to last week's victory by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in fending off a union-backed voter recall.

Over the weekend, Walker clearly said he disagreed with Romney; he didn't consider teachers, police and firefighters the big government voters want to see trimmed, the Wisconsin governor said.

Romney also seemed to be putting some space between himself and his campaign chair, former New Hampshire governor John Sununu who on Monday defended Romney's original comment for its "wisdom."

On MSNBC Monday, Sununu also said:

"There may be others who run away from those comments, but I'm going to tell you there are places where just pumping money in to add to the public payroll is not what the taxpayers of this country want."

We have no idea who Sununu meant when he said "others."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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