President Obama's re-election campaign will continue to drive home its claim of having rescued the auto industry in Ohio with a four-day "Made In Ohio" tour starting today in Lima and Perrysburg.
The saved jobs from the now profitable car industry that faced disaster four years ago are the centerpiece of President Obama's bid for re-election in Ohio and Michigan against presumed Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who opposed the bailout.
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a national co-chairman of President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign, announced the tour in a telephone news conference Monday along with Bob King, president of the United Auto Workers union.
"Although the polls and the pundits and prominent Republicans like Mitt Romney advised against it, the President made the right decision to step in, and we all know how that has unfolded," said Mr. Strickland.
He said the tour would spotlight personal stories of people "whose lives are now more secure, whose families are better off, whose future is brighter, thanks in large part to the President's investment in the auto industry."
Republicans criticized the $80 billion rescues of General Motors and Chrysler as mismanagement of taxpayers' money and not a true reflection of the state of the economy under Mr. Obama.
The first stop is at a UAW hall in Lima, at 1 p.m., with speakers Greg Schultz, the Obama For America state director for Ohio, and Larry Donaldson, vice president for the UAW's Lima-Troy political action committee.
Next stop is Perrysburg at 3:30 p.m. at UAW Local 1435 Hall, 29781 Oregon Rd., in Perrysburg Township. Speakers there include Mr. Schultz and state UAW Director Ken Lortz.
Mr. King said advisers to former President Bush estimated 1 million jobs would have been lost without government intervention.
He said that the number of people directly employed in the auto manufacturing industry has risen from 105,000 in Ohio when the two companies emerged from bankruptcy, to 120,000 now.
Mr. King said the auto industry supports 700,000 additional jobs in Ohio, a number that includes businesses that depend on auto workers, such as diners and retailers near auto plants.
Mr. Strickland contrasted Mr. Obama's support of workers with Mr. Romney's reported investments in the Cayman Islands, a Swiss bank account, and a Bermuda corporation.
"Why would anyone wanting to be the President of the United States choose to invest his resources in foreign situations?" Mr. Strickland said. "I believe the people of Ohio once they actually understand what that difference is will support President Obama in a strong way, a decisive way, come November."
A Youngstown-area woman who said she was a welder for 15 years at GM's Lordstown assembly plant said on the conference call that failing to bail out the auto industry would have been the death knell of auto manufacturing in the Mahoning Valley.
"Thanks to President Obama's bold decision to save the auto industry I got my job back," said Dawn Burkey. "If it were not for the President's decision I would probably still not be working and the valley would be on its knees."
Mr. Romney has said that his prescription for the auto manufacturing crisis involved the same route that was followed by the Obama administration -- managed bankruptcy, but without the same level of taxpayer investment.
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R., Dayton), co-chair of Mr. Romney's Ohio campaign, portrayed the Obama campaign's boast of having saved one of Ohio's most important industries as a hard sell to voters.
"Remarkably, President Obama's allies have attempted to justify his $80 billion auto bailout. President Obama's mismanagement of the process cost the American taxpayers $23 billion. In the process, 20,000 Delphi salaried retirees lost up to 70 percent of their pensions. Governor Romney will make decisions based on what's best for the economy and for American workers, not based on political favoritism and backroom deals," Mr. Turner said in a statement distributed by the Romney campaign.
Retired salaried employees of the former Delphi Corp. lost pension value as part of the GM bankruptcy and are active in trying to recover those pensions.
The $23 billion relates to the price of GM stock held by the U.S. government.
The Ohio Republican Party put the focus on Mr. Strickland, saying that Ohio lost 400,000 jobs during his one term.
"If the White House believes that qualifies him as an expert in economics, we look forward to the debate," said Christopher Maloney, spokesman for the party.
He said Gov. John Kasich, who has taken no strong stand on whether the bailouts were the right move, "is creating a pro-growth business environment in Ohio so another taxpayer subsidized bailout isn't necessary in the future."
Asked about Republican Ohio U.S. Sen. Rob Portman as a potential running mate to Mr. Romney, Mr. Strickland said he would be the "safest" choice, but a very conservative one.
"Based on the people who have been suggested, Mr. Portman would be in some ways the safest person. Rob Portman, I know him well, is a very conservative guy with good manners," Mr. Strickland said.
He said Mr. Portman's demeanor misleads some people into thinking he is a moderate.
He said Mr. Portman, who was budget director and trade representative under President Bush, will have to share responsibility for international trade policies and Bush budget and tax policies that he said had bad consequences for Ohio.
A spokesman for Mr. Portman declined to comment.
Contact Tom Troy at email@example.com or 419-724-6058.