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COLUMBUS — Seeking to turn the state’s stronger-than-average economic recovery to his boss’s advantage in battleground Ohio, Vice President Joe Biden today held up its expanding manufacturing sector and auto industry to contrast the policies of President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
He quoted an interview with Mr. Romney that The Blade published Wednesday.
“Yesterday he said to the press, quote, ‘It would never have crossed my mind to close down the industry’,” Mr. Biden told a crowd of several hundred inside a plumbers’ union hall in Columbus, which he mistakenly referred to at one point as Toledo.
“I wonder what in the heck was occupying his mind back’’ when he wrote The New York Times opinion piece that was entitled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” he said.
Obama is banking that the auto industry rescue will resonate in swing states like Ohio and Michigan where the tangible results have been added work shifts and plant expansions. Mr. Romney, however, has criticized giving auto makers Chrysler and General Motors billions in upfront taxpayer dollars and has argued that the companies should have been allowed to go through a structured bankruptcy instead.
Today’s event kicked off a statewide tour in which Democrats are touting the “comeback story” of Ohio manufacturing.
Manufacturing growth has contributed to the drop in the state’s unemployment rate to 7.3 percent. That compares to a national rate that’s been stuck at 8.2 percent with job creation waning in recent months.
Republican Gov. John Kasich has touted that Ohio has added 100,000 jobs over the last two years, a message that has sometimes put him at odds with Mr. Romney’s more pessimistic look at the economy on the campaign trail. Those 100,000 jobs, however, make up for just a quarter of the jobs Ohio lost between 2001 and 2009 as many manufacturing slashed payrolls or shuttered their doors.
One minute the Vice President defended Mr. Romney’s role as CEO of the private equity firm Bain Capital.
“It does what it was supposed to do — make money,’’ he said.
But then he pointed to Bain’s role in creating jobs overseas in firms that it turned around and the controversy over how much of a role Mr. Romney played in outsourcing decisions after he said he took his leave from the company in 1999.
“Romney said the President is out of touch,” Mr. Biden said. “Out of touch? A guy with a Swiss bank account, a guy with a million bucks invested in the Cayman Islands? And my guy’s out of touch?...Did you ever think you’d see a presidential race when you’re choosing between one guy with a million bucks in the Cayman Islands and a Swiss bank account and the other guy invested in the United States?”
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett accused the President of coming to Ohio to take credit for plant expansions and jobs he had little to do with.
“Governor Kasich’s work to restore Ohio’s manufacturing base was the driving force behind Ford’s decision to move their Mexico operations to Ohio, not our President’s failed economic policies,” he said. “If Barack Obama cared less about taking credit and worked harder to implement job-friendly policies, maybe the U.S. unemployment rate would mirror what’s happening here in Ohio.”
Ohio was again the center of presidential attention this week as the candidates dueled over their economic strategies. Mr. Obama was in Cincinnati on Monday and Mr. Romney in Toledo and Bowling Green on Wednesday. No Republican has won the White House without carrying Ohio, and no Democrat has done it since John F. Kennedy in 1960.