By TOM RAUM, Associated Press
It's been a difficult time for President Barack Obama to stay on message.
The Wisconsin recall election on Tuesday didn't go the way Democrats hoped and lately Obama's economic theme has gotten blurred — and not just by Republicans.
First, former President Bill Clinton suggested that broad tax cuts expiring in January should be temporarily renewed, including for the wealthiest Americans. That appeared to undercut Obama's steadfast calls for ending them for households earning over $250,000 a year.
Clinton also said in a CNBC interview that tax revenues were low and spending seemed high "because there's a recession."
The recession officially ended three years ago. And Obama emphasizes it's been growing since then, if slowly.
Former top Obama economic adviser Lawrence Summers seemed to add fuel to the fire by saying the U.S. should avoid any moves that would stall the fragile recovery.
"The real risk to this economy is on the side of slowdown...and that means we've got to make sure that we don't take gasoline out of the tank at the end of this year," he told MSNBC. "That's got to be the top priority."
Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna later issued a clarification saying Clinton believed any full tax-cut extension should be short-lived and that he also meant "there was a recession and we're still living with the aftermath of it."
And Summers, treasury secretary under Clinton, didn't specifically call for extending tax cuts for the wealthy, saying they should pay their fair share.
But, the comments — along with Clinton's earlier but later amended praise of Republican Mitt Romney's business resume — could complicate Obama's efforts to keep control of his economic agenda.
Obama headed Wednesday for San Francisco for two days of California fundraising. Romney campaigned in San Antonio, Texas.
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