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Published: Wednesday, 1/6/2010

Sen. Brown says Obama deserves B or B+ grade

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) yesterday predicted that Democrats will have successes to campaign on, despite what seems to some to be a too-slow recovery from the recession, in a series of visits yesterday in Toledo.

Meeting with The Blade's editorial board, he said President Obama deserves a B or B+ for his performance so far, given the depths of the economic crisis he started with.

"This is a situation that Obama has had 11 months to fix. I would like it to have been faster. … The choices were stark," he said, adding the administration should focus more on immediate job growth.

"It's going to be a hard case to make, not because of the rightness of it, but because the economic situation in the state obviously is the worst time in our lifetimes," he said. "I think we're going to have some pretty good things to point to for Ohio by Election Day that the administration's done."

He said Democrats trying to win this year's top elections - the open Senate seat now held by Republican Sen. George Voinovich who is not seeking another term, and Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland's re-election effort - should remind voters of Republican support for international trade agreements that he said have cost Ohio hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs.

"The Democrats have got to get the message across of what we inherited," Mr. Brown said.

He said Toledo is positioned to be a "Silicon Valley of alternative energy," but said the nation must adopt an industrial policy.

"Ohio's a manufacturing state and it will continue to be but we need a better national manufacturing policy if we're going to do the kind of job creation we need to in this state," Mr. Brown said. He said one of his legislative initiatives, which has been introduced in the House climate-change bill, is to help auto parts suppliers transition to supplying parts for the alternative energy industry.

Part of the solution, he said, is more aggressive enforcement of trade laws, such as President Obama's recent imposition of a 35-percent tariff on Chinese-made tires, which prompted the hiring of 100 people at Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. in Findlay.

"You're going to see more enforcement of U.S. trade law," he said.

Mr. Brown said he was happy with the health-reform measure the Senate passed, but that it would have been better with the "public option" - government-run insurance for some people - or the Medicare "buy-in" that would allow 55-year-olds to buy into the government-funded medical plan.

Mr. Brown predicted Congress will repeal the special deal given to conservative Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska to win his vote. The bill's backers agreed to have the federal government pay to expand Medicaid services in Nebraska after that portion of the bill takes effect in 2016.

"You can bet that won't be law by the time that goes into effect," Mr. Brown said.

At the Main branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Library, Mr. Brown heard from 14 local officials in one of his "roundtables."

He has held about 150 of these since 2007, meeting with community leaders statewide to see what can be done to improve the economy and relieve local needs.

From University of Toledo President Lloyd Jacobs he heard: "Education is the only long-term solution to the economic situation we're in."

Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop said "Dr. Jacobs probably has the biggest role in our county's future. Lucas County has a below-average college graduation rate."

County Commissioner Pete Gerken described health care as "an issue we can't wait on."

Senator Brown said he believed the Toledo area was positioned to take the lead in alternative energy technology. "Every place in Ohio has something going in alternative energy. Nobody's got what Toledo's got," he said.

The senator ended the day at a fund-raiser in Perrysburg for Governor Strickland's campaign that featured former President Bill Clinton as the speaker.

Staff Writer Carl Ryan contributed to this report.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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