In Ohio, Obama Hits Romney On Trade, Manufacturing

By: CNN Posted By Doug Brown
By: CNN Posted By Doug Brown

(CNN) – President Barack Obama on Thursday pushed his vision for fair trade practices while kicking off his two-day bus tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania, a region known as a manufacturing hub.

"Americans and American workers build better products than anybody else. So as long as we're competing on a fair playing field instead of an unfair playing field, we'll do just fine," Obama said outside of Toledo, Ohio, which is home to a major Jeep assembly plant.

His comments come the same day his administration filed an unfair trade complaint with the World Trade Organization, claiming China places inconsistent duties on American-made automobiles.

Wearing a blue-collared shirt Thursday, Obama took his Republican rival Mitt Romney to task, saying the presumptive GOP presidential nominee's background as a corporate CEO would render him unprepared in standing up to China.

"Gov. Romney's experience has been in owning companies that were called 'pioneers' of outsourcing," Obama said. "My experience has been in saving the American auto industry, and as long as I'm president that's what I'm going to be doing."

Obama, wiping sweat off his face in the Ohio heat, was specifically referring to a Washington Post report that claimed Romney's former private equity firm, Bain Capital, advised its companies to take part in outsourcing and offshoring work overseas. Romney's team has heavily denied such claims.

Romney's campaign, meanwhile, has accused Obama of being weak against China in the past, even launching a state-specific ad in Ohio saying as much.

His team responded to the president's trade complaint on Thursday, saying despite his "tough game" Obama still hasn't "delivered."

"Candidate Obama may talk a tough game on standing up to China and fighting for American manufacturing – but President Obama just hasn't delivered," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement. "After three and a half years, the manufacturing sector is still hurting and China continues to play by its own set of rules."

Obama's stop outside of Toledo on Thursday marked the inaugural event for his first official bus tour this cycle, which comes less than three weeks after Romney finished his own tour across the Rust Belt region.

Not only do Ohio and Pennsylvania represent crucial battleground territory this November, but Obama's bus tour path is also home to many working class voters, a group the two campaigns are trying to attract.

"Throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania, President Obama will talk about his efforts over the last three years to get our economy back on track, doubling down on American workers by saving the auto industry, investing in manufacturing and bringing jobs back to America," the Obama campaign said in a statement.

Later Thursday, Obama travels to Sandusky for an ice cream social, then ends the day with what's billed as a grassroots event in Parma, a city outside of Cleveland.

Obama has been no stranger this year to the Buckeye State, which CNN rates as a "toss-up" on its Electoral Map. While the trip marks his third to Ohio since he held his first official campaign rally in Columbus in early May, it's his seventh trip overall to the state during 2012.

Ohio has long been a key swing state in presidential elections, and a Quinnipiac survey released last week showed Obama with an edge over Romney, 47% to 38%.

In 2008, Obama won the state with 52% over Sen. John McCain at 47%.

But the president isn't the only one out on the Ohio-Pennsylvania bus route this week. Romney's campaign has surrogates shadowing the Obama's trail–a similar strategy Democrats took last month during Romney's five-day, six-state tour.

Former presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, both considered potential GOP running mates, stopped in Maumee Thursday morning ahead of the president's speech to blast Obama over what they called his "broken promises."

"The president a few weeks ago came and gave an economic speech in Ohio. He's a great speaker," Jindal said. "But four years ago, it was about hope and change. That speech a few weeks ago was about divide and blame."

Pawlenty argued the president had failed to follow through on a promise to turn the economy around, pointing to the increasing debt and rising health care costs.

The former governor also suggested a new name for Obama's bus tour, which is officially called the "Betting on America" tour.

"I think we should dub his tour the 'Broken Promises Tour for America's Middle Class'," Pawlenty said.

On Thursday, however, Obama touted the Supreme Court's ruling to uphold his signature health care reform law.

"I'll work with anybody who wants to work with me to continue to improve our health care system and our health care laws, but the law I passed is here to stay," he said.

For its part, the Republican National Committee is also making noise, releasing a web video Thursday that hits Obama over the national debt.

The video features a speech Vice President Joe Biden made in Maumee, Ohio during the 2008 campaign, in which he lambasted Republicans for allowing the debt to rise to $8 trillion at the time. It now stands at more than $15 trillion.

The RNC will also host a conference call Friday with Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania, who's also expected to target Obama over the debt.

On the second day of his trip, Obama will again start in Ohio in the city of Poland, then cross the border into Pennsylvania and hold a campaign event in Pittsburgh.

The president was last in the Keystone State in mid June, when he held three fund-raisers in one day in Philadelphia. His wife, Michelle, also ventured to the city in early June and fired up a Philly crowd, urging them to turn out for her husband in November.

CNN rates Pennsylvania as a state leaning toward Obama. However, when Romney stopped there on his own bus tour, he predicted a victory later this year.

"I've got news for you," Romney told a crowd at a campaign stop in Cornwall. "I am going to win Pennsylvania!"

A separate Quinnipiac survey released last week, however, indicated the president had a slight margin over Romney, 45% to 39%. Obama carried the state in 2008 with 55% of the vote.

Both campaigns have aired state-specific ads in Ohio and Pennsylvania. And according to a Republican ad buying source, the Obama campaign will spend more than $6 million on ads in Ohio during the month of July, with more than $900,000 going toward Pennsylvania. The amounts are part of a $25 million ad buy the campaign purchased this month.

The Romney campaign has not bought air time for the entire month yet but is already spending over $7.5 million through July 10.

While the president will end his tour Friday, he heads back out to another swing state next week, returning to Iowa for a campaign event in Cedar Rapids.

– CNN's Tom Cohen, Shawna Shepherd, Steve Brusk, Adam Aigner-Treworgy and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.


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