“There are municipalities, there are states where there is flight of population, and as the population goes down, you need fewer teachers. As technology contributes to community security and dealing with issues that firefighters have to issue, you would hope that you can as a taxpayer see the benefits of the efficiency in personnel you can get out of that,” said former N.H. Gov. John Sununu, one of the Romney campaign’s top surrogates, in an interview with MSNBC. Though he said he was speaking “as a taxpayer,” Sununu echoed a speech Romney gave in Salt Lake City on Friday, hitting President Barack Obama for supporting federal aid to states and local governments.
“[Obama] says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers,” said Romney. “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 referring to the recent recall election in Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker survived an attempt to remove him from office. The Democrats did succeed in gaining control of the Wisconsin Senate.
While Romney claimed that Wisconsin gave him a mandate to cut government services, even Walker backed away from that analysis. In an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Walker said, “I know in my state our reforms allowed us to protect firefighters, police officers and teachers. That’s not what I think of when I think of big government.”
The Obama campaign hit back hard at Romney’s opposition to front-line government workers. The campaign said in a tweet on its Twitter feed, “The last thing our country needs is to have fewer teachers in our schools.” It also hit back with a web ad decrying Romney’s position.
But Sununu, at least, stood strongly by Romney’s statement.
“You have cities in this country in which the school population peaked ten, fifteen years ago, and yet the number of teachers they have maintained has not changed,” Sununu said. “I think this is a real issue and people ought to stop jumping on it as as gaffe and understand there’s wisdom in the comments.”