CHARLOTTE -- In a blistering rebuke, Ted Strickland blasted Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Tuesday, accusing him of being a job-outsourcing pioneer for whom "American workers are just numbers on a spreadsheet."
Initial emphasis on the Democratic National Convention's first night had been praise for President Obama and his policies. But the 71-year-old former Ohio congressman and governor came to the podium with all guns blazing.
"To him, all profits are created equal, whether made on our shores or off," Mr. Strickland said. "That's why companies that Romney invested in were dubbed 'outsourcing pioneers.' Now you know our nation was built by pioneers -- pioneers who accepted untold risks in pursuit of freedom, not by pioneers seeking offshore profits at the expense of American workers here at home.
"Mitt Romney proudly wrote an op-ed entitled, 'Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,' " he said. "You know, If he had had his way, devastation would have cascaded from Michigan to Ohio and across the nation. Mitt Romney never saw the point of building something when he could profit by tearing it down. If Mitt was Santa Claus, he'd fire the reindeer and outsource the elves."
Mr. Strickland accused Mr. Romney of lying over claims that Mr. Obama supports rolling back welfare-to-work requirements and pointed to Romney investments in offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands.
A week ago, Gov. John Kasich, who defeated Mr. Strickland in 2010, spoke at the Republican National Convention to tout Ohio's stronger-than-average economic performance as an example of how GOP reforms, also espoused by Mr. Romney, can work.
But as Mr. Obama did on Labor Day in Toledo, Mr. Strickland argued Tuesday that Ohio economic revival is a product of its industrial base.
He pointed to specific stories of Perrysburg's Ina Sidney, Springfield Township's Brian Slagle, and Toledo Jeep worker James Fayson, all beneficiaries of the automotive recovery.
"The auto industry supports one of every eight jobs in Ohio, and it's alive and growing in America again," Mr. Strickland said. "Late last year, Chrysler announced they were hiring 1,100 new autoworkers in Toledo. Just last month, GM announced a plan to invest $200 million in Lordstown, keeping 5,000 jobs in Ohio and building the next generation of the Chevy Cruze, a car we are proud to say is made entirely in Ohio."
Ohio GOP Chairman Bob Bennett said Mr. Strickland's presence at the convention smacked of desperation. "Whoever decided to give a speaking role to a fired governor responsible for 400,000 lost jobs ought to have their head examined, but then again, I've been saying that about the Democrats for years," he said.
Ohio's presence was heavily felt in Charlotte's Time Warner Arena even before Mr. Strickland took the stage. Earlier, Cincinnati firefighter Doug Stern took aim at Governor Kasich, and by extension Mr. Romney, over last year's partisan Ohio battle over a Republican-passed law greatly weakening the collective-bargaining power of firefighters, police officers, teachers, sewer workers, and other public employees.
Mr. Stern became one of the faces of the media campaign as a voter backlash killed the law before it could directly affect any contracts.
"Enough of the vilification of people who work for a living," Mr. Stern said over cheers from the crowd. "Enough of the disrespect for the middle class. Enough of the far-right agenda. We have a clear choice in this campaign. People I work with and firemen I hang out with, we have a simple statement. We support those who support us.
"That's why this Republican -- I'm sorry, former Republican -- fireman, stands here to do that, and that is why firefighters support President Obama and Vice President Biden, because they have our backs and it's our turn to have theirs," he said.
Mr. Romney eventually endorsed Senate Bill 5, and Democrats have argued that he would pursue similar policies at the federal level if elected.
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.