TAMPA -- Pressed to say how he would have voted on the auto bailout of 2009, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel on Sunday continued to resist taking a position on the issue that affected thousands of jobs in the greater Toledo area.
Instead, he vowed to be an advocate for the auto industry in Lucas County and northwest Ohio, and attacked his opponent, Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, over the loss of pensions experienced by former nonunion employees of Delphi Corp., a former General Motors parts subsidiary.
"Time will tell the long-term effects of" the auto industry bailout, Mr. Mandel said. "I was in the state legislature at the time. If I was there [in Congress], I would have done everything I could have under the umbrella of the free enterprise system to protect those auto jobs."
Mr. Mandel, now the Ohio state treasurer, sat for an interview with The Blade on Sunday morning in Tampa where the Republican National Convention is to take place this week.
And he addressed the Ohio delegation to the Republican National Convention during a brunch at the Mainsail Hotel in Tampa, where most of the delegation is staying.
Mr. Mandel stood on an outdoor patio, as wind whipped the palm trees behind him -- harbingers of Tropical Storm Isaac that has already canceled the Monday convention program.
The convention will have an official kickoff Monday but all the business and speeches have been moved to Tuesday to avoid having convention-goers in downtown Tampa when Isaac is expected to be at its peak.
Convention speakers who were to take the microphone Monday have been rescheduled. Among them is Speaker of the House John Boehner (R., West Chester, Ohio), who now speaks Tuesday.
While Mr. Mandel was unwilling to say whether the $82 billion auto rescue was good or bad overall, he singled out the indirect impact the bailout had on retirees of the former Delphi Corp., a GM spinoff.
"One of my main concerns with the legislation was how tens of thousands of middle-class employees from Delphi lost their pensions, and I've met with these Delphi employees and I think it was wrong to strip these employees of their hard-earned pensions," Mr. Mandel said.
Brown spokesman Justin Barasky said there was no vote of Senator Brown that caused the Delphi retirees to lose part of their pensions, because Delphi had been spun off from GM in 1999. UAW employees of Delphi got their pensions because GM had guaranteed those pensions in a prior contract with the union, whereas Delphi's salaried workers had no such protection for their pensions.
"If it weren't for the auto rescue, forget the reduction in their pensions, there'd be nothing," Mr. Barasky said. "Sherrod has fought since it happened to restore the full pensions that they earned."
The former Lyndhurst (Cuyahoga County) city councilman and state representative, Mr. Mandel was elected state treasurer in 2010, and began running for the U.S. Senate soon after being sworn in in 2011. A poll conducted by The [Columbus] Dispatch and reported Sunday found Mr. Mandel and Mr. Brown tied at 44 percent.
In addressing the Ohio delegation, Mr. Mandel told his listeners he was being outspent by the Brown campaign by $15 million to $12 million.
Unsaid was the millions of dollars -- most of them in Mr. Mandel's favor -- that are being spent by third-party groups to influence Ohio voters in the U.S. Senate race.
Talking about the presidential election, Mr. Mandel said Mr. Romney's opponents will try to make the election about "small things," such as "what kind of horse Mitt Romney's wife has at the Olympics" and Mr. Romney's tax returns.
"Ladies and gents, this campaign is not about small things; it's about big things," Mr. Mandel said.
Among those big things, according to Mr. Mandel are the $15.6 trillion national debt, borrowing more than $1 trillion from the People's Republic of China over the last two decades, and regulators and bureaucrats in Washington who treat businesses "as if they're guilty until proven innocent."
"It's about the fact that our President and one of our senators thinks that the oil and the gas and the coal we have underground in Ohio and America are liabilities. Ladies and gentlemen, these natural resources are assets, and for the economic strength and national security of America we must maximize them," Mr. Mandel said.
Jessica Kershaw, spokesman for the Obama campaign, responded that the Obama campaign would be about saving Medicare and protecting the economic security of the middle class, which she said would be in danger under a Romney administration.
She said the President views coal, natural gas, and oil as part of an "all of the above approach" to diversifying the nation's energy portfolio.
Contact Tom Troy at: email@example.com or 419-724-6058.