WASHINGTON President Barack Obama stressed the U.S. economy is "not doing fine," seeking to clarify his earlier comments about the private sector and accusing his Republican rivals of lacking ideas about how to stoke growth and create jobs.
Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, Obama said that while corporate profits are strong and companies have been adding jobs, small businesses are having a tough time getting financing and other pockets of the economy need more attention.
He repeated his view, expressed earlier on Friday in a press conference, that budget-pinched state and local governments need help to avoid teacher and police layoffs, and that Congress should help buoy struggling homeowners and construction workers who remain out of work several years after the financial crisis.
"It is absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine, that's the reason I had a press conference," the Democratic president said, seated next to Filipino President Benigno Aquino.
Republicans in Congress had pounced on his Friday morning comments that the private sector was "doing fine," and Mitt Romney, who is running against Obama for the presidency on November 6, called that statement "an extraordinary miscalculation."
Obama, asked about Romney's response, accused Republicans of lacking ideas of how to help the U.S. economy fully recover.
"What steps are they willing to take right now that are going to make an actual difference? So far, all we have heard are additional tax cuts for the folks who are doing well," he said.
(Reporting By Laura MacInnis; Editing by Sandra Maler)