BOWLING GREEN — An exuberant Mitt Romney rallied a crowd of supporters against what he said was a President who doesn’t respect personal success during his first campaign trip to northwest Ohio since the Republican primary season.
While speaking in Wood County, Mr. Romney jumped on President Barack Obama’s comment from last week that “if you’ve got a business you didn’t build that, somebody else made it happen.”
“Barack Obama’s attempt to denigrate and diminish the achievement of the individual diminishes us all. ... He tries to divide America, tear America apart. He tries to diminish those who’ve been successful. It’s simply wrong,” Mr. Romney told a strongly supportive audience inside the Bowling Green Community Center, a city-owned gym that the Romney campaign rented for two days.
The presumptive Republican nominee offered his audience a hint of what to expect in his vice-presidential running mate.
“That person will be a conservative, they will believe in conservative principles,” Mr. Romney said.
In response to a question, he offered a view of what America will look like after eight years of a Romney presidency.
“Eight years out we’re going to have a balanced budget, we’re going to have a court that believes in following the Constitution. We’re going to have the world surprised at how dramatic America’s comeback was. We’re going to see North America almost at the point of being energy independent,” he said.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich introduced Mr. Romney as someone who faced the same attacks on his private sector background as he did. Mr. Kasich worked for the Wall Street investment firm Lehman Brothers before his 2010 campaign for governor.
“They spent all their time trying to smear me because I worked in business, and you know why? Because they had nothing to sell themselves. Now they are releasing one smear attack after another because Mitt Romney was in business and they’ve got nothing to sell.”
Mr. Romney’s championing of small business was a hit with the crowd, and when he invited the business owners in the crowd to stand and be thanked, many did.
“When people needed good jobs, what’s [President Obama] been doing over the last 6 months? He has held 100 fund-raisers. And guess how many meetings he’s had with his jobs council — none, zero. His priority is not creating jobs for you. His priority is trying to keep his own job and that’s why he’s going to lose it.”
Mr. Romney said “when you attack success as this president has you will see less success.”
Democrats have tried to point out the context of the remark, saying Mr. Obama wasn’t saying that business owners owe their success to the government, but that they succeed because of the infrastructure and education system provided by the community.
Dressed in a white shirt with a gray tie, Mr. Romney was in a jocular mood. When a woman talked about her son’s business, a women’s clothing store, she mentioned that women do the shopping there, Mr. Romney quipped, “I hope so.”
A mile from where Mr. Romney spoke, members of the United Steelworkers Local 1042 held a news conference in protest, claiming Mr. Romney would be an "out-sourcer in chief."
"Romney was heavily involved in outsourcing. He cost thousands of jobs. He's using his business experience as a qualification to be president but in fact it's the opposite," said Mike Gillis, the Ohio spokesman for the American Federation of Labor.
Speeches at the protest also focused on support for the Bring Jobs Home Act, a bill that aims to use tax incentives to bring jobs back to America and prevent more from going overseas, which unions see as key to preserving manufacturing jobs.
The parking lot of the seven-year-old recreation building was full by noon, two hours before the candidate was to begin speaking.
At noon, Mr. Romney was the guest of a fund-raiser in the Toledo Club in Toledo, for which tickets cost $10,000 a couple.
The former Massachusetts governor is in swing state Ohio the same week as President Obama, who held a town hall meeting in Cincinnati Monday.
Polls show the election in Ohio close, but with Mr. Obama slightly ahead. The recent Purple Strategies had Mr. Obama ahead by 48-45 percent. Ohio’s 18 electoral votes are considered critical to both presidential candidates because of Ohio’s history of voting for the winner. The winner needs 270 electoral votes.
Republican surrogates for Mr. Romney are in other parts of the state, as well, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in Columbus and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in Hamilton.
Mr. Romney’s visit comes as his campaign releases a new television ad accusing President Obama of using the 2009 stimulus to pay back political supporters and to grow jobs in other countries. The ad is the first Romney television ad to appear in the Toledo media market.
The Obama campaign also released a new ad today in Ohio. The ad attacks Mr. Romney for refusing to release more than a single year’s worth of tax returns.
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