John Sununu defends Romney's call for fewer teachers, says it was not a ‘gaffe'

ByABC News
June 11, 2012, 10:58 AM

— -- Former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu, a surrogate for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, defended the presumptive Republican nominee's comments that the nation should have fewer teachers, firefighters and police officers, saying there was "wisdom" in Romney's remarks.

"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," Sununu said during an interview on MSNBC's "Jansing & Co." Monday, prefacing that he was speaking "as a taxpayer" and not a representative of the Romney campaign. "There may be others who run away from those comments, but I'm going to tell you that there are places where just pumping money in to add to the public payroll is not what the taxpayers of this country want."

Sununu was referring to comments Romney made during a speech Friday in Salt Lake City, Utah in which he criticized Obama for  calling for more government hiring on the state and local level and for saying during a press conference earlier that day that "the private sector is doing fine."

"He wants to hire more government workers. He says we need more fireman, more policeman, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin?" Romney said, referring to the failed recall effort of Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker. "The American people did. It's time for us to cut back on government and help the American people."

The Obama campaign seized on Romney's comments with an Web ad, and the media labeled it a "gaffe" for referring specifically to fireman, policemen and teachers--employees exempt from Walker's union reform efforts that led to his attempted recall. But Sununu said Monday that in certain areas of the country there should "absolutely" be fewer teachers.

"If there's fewer kids in the classroom, the taxpayers really do want to hear that there will be fewer teachers, absolutely. You've got a lot of places where that is happening," he said during the MSNBC interview. "You've got a very mobile country now where things are changing. 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. 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."