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Published: Wednesday, 2/29/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Romney touts business experience in Toledo visit

Ohio auditor expected to endorse GOP candidate

BY TONY COOK
BLADE STAFF WRITER
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and wife Ann walk through steel coils at American Posts during a campaign stop Wednesday in Toledo. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and wife Ann walk through steel coils at American Posts during a campaign stop Wednesday in Toledo.
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In his first Ohio appearance after winning Michigan’s primary, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney visited a Toledo fence post manufacturer where he took shots at President Obama and touted his own experience in the private sector.

“You’re going to have a choice in Ohio,” Mr. Romney said. “Do you want someone who has spent his life in the private sector and understands where jobs come from, or do you want someone who has spent his career in Washington?”

PHOTO GALLERY: Romney campaigns in Toledo

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With big coils of steel and a massive C-hook hanging from the ceiling behind him, the former Massachusetts governor told a crowd of about 300 people that he would take China to task for manipulating its currency.

“This president says he will take them to the mat, but then they walk all over him,” he said. “If I’m president of the United States, that’s going to end.”

The crowd listens to Mitt Romney's speech Wednesday at American Posts. The crowd listens to Mitt Romney's speech Wednesday at American Posts.
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He said he would seek tariffs on Chinese products if those products are kept artificially inexpensive due to currency manipulation.

The setting was significant for such a message. The company that hosted the event in North Toledo is American Posts, a fence post manufacturer that is the only one of its kind left in the United States. A few years ago, there were several others, but they were all put out of business by competition from Chinese manufacturers, said CEO William Feniger. He’s supporting Mr. Romney because of his track record helping businesses, he said.

During his speech, Mr. Romney also said he would evaluate and eliminate government programs, repeal Mr. Obama’s health care law, and strengthen the nation’s military.

He only briefly noted his win in Michigan last night, where he narrowly defeated rival Rick Santorum.

“People who said the economy and jobs were their top issue, they voted for me overwhelmingly,” he said.

Mr. Romney is hoping to capitalize on that momentum here in Ohio, which holds its primary Tuesday along with 10 other states.

Mitt Romney greets workers Horacio Abadia, left, and Maurice Manley, right, at American Posts during a campaign stop in Toledo. Mitt Romney greets workers Horacio Abadia, left, and Maurice Manley, right, at American Posts during a campaign stop in Toledo.
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During the event, Mr. Romney picked up the endorsement of state Auditor Dave Yost. Mr. Yost is the second state office holder to endorse in the primary. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine endorsed Mr. Santorum last week. U.S. Sen. Rob Portman is backing Mr. Romney and is chairing his Ohio nomination campaign.

Mr. Romney’s speech, which was less than 15 minutes, galvanized many in the crowd despite its brevity.

“It’s his stump speech. We’ve all heard it on TV before. But it’s important,” said John Connors, 68, a retired city worker who lives in Toledo’s Old West End. Mr. Connors cited Mr. Romney’s experience as governor as the chief reason he’s supporting him.

“A lot of people don’t know what criteria to use in choosing a candidate,” he said. “His winning Michigan is going to help people in northwest Ohio decide who to vote for, and that will be Mitt Romney.”

In a news conference after the event, local and state Democrats hammered Mr. Romney for opposing the federal government’s bailout of the auto industry. Mr. Romney penned a 2008 guest column published in the New York Times under the headline “Let Detroit go bankrupt.”

“Given his opposition to the auto rescue, it is unbelievable that Governor Romney would insult the people of Ohio in such a way,” said Chris Redfern, Ohio Democratic Party chairman. “Let me be clear: Mitt Romney would have let Jeep die.”

Chrysler’s Toledo Assembly Plant, which produces Wrangler and Liberty Jeeps, employs about 1,800 people. Mr. Redfern said one in eight Ohio jobs are supported by the auto industry.

“This issue is not so much about Democrat versus Republican as it is about right versus wrong,” said Mr. Redfern, who was joined by state Rep. Michael Ashford, Lucas County Democratic Party Chairman Ron Rothenbuhler, and congressional candidate Angie Zimmann.

Mr. Romney did not mention his opposition to the bailout during his speech.

Contact Tony Cook at: tcook@theblade.com or 419-724-6065.



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