VANDALIA, Ohio - Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney vowed to have a presidency that respects small business and private enterprise, as he launched a four-city campaign tour of Ohio here at the Dayton International Airport today.
His voice sounding raspy, Mr.Romney spoke, along with vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan, to a crowd of 2,700 cheering supporters in an outdoor gathering on the tarmac behind Wright Brothers Aviation. The event was threatened, and occasionally spattered, with rain.
Mr. Romney is battling for Ohio's 18 electoral votes in his quest for the 270 electoral votes needed to win the Nov. 6 election. The race is viewed as close, though a recent poll by the Ohio Newspaper Organization, which includes The Blade, showed President Obama leading in Ohio by 51-46 percent.
"This is a vision of government that is entirely foreign to anything this nation has ever known," Mr. Romney said of the Obama administration. He said the Obama vision involves, "a larger government, taking more and more, intruding in your relationship with your doctor, investing, so to speak, in companies, picking winners and losers, or in his case, losers."
"We're going to return America to the principles that made this nation the hope of the earth," Mr. Romney said.
Mr. Romney later referred in his speech to three failed alternative energy businesses that received loans or grants from the 2009 stimulus.
Two of the companies that the Obama administration has claimed as examples of its investments are General Motors and Chrysler, which together received about $80 billion in loans and stock purchases from federal taxpayers to help them weather the 2008-2009 credit crisis. Mr. Romney opposed the bailout, saying the companies should go through a managed bankruptcy.
Mr. Romney didn't address the secretly recorded videotape in which he said 47 percent of the country doesn't pay taxes, is dependent on government, and won't support him for president, and which Democrats have exploited for political value.
Instead, he attacked what he said are Mr. Obama's plans to raise taxes on small business.
"For the million small businesses in this country he wants to take the federal income tax from 35 percent to 40 percent," Mr. Romney said. "What that will do is kill jobs. This is a president that is bent on growing government. I'm bent on growing jobs and raising take-home pay and we'll do it."
Mr. Romney added some detail to the Ohio television commercials in which he accuses China of being a "cheater" on trade.
He said China artificially holds down the value of its currency to make sure it does not trade openly around the world. He said that leads to Chinese products being 15 percent to 30 percent cheaper than they would be if the currency were allowed to trade at its market level.
Mr. Romney also said that the Chinese have stolen patents, intellectual property, design, and "knowhow," and have counterfeited goods.
On Wednesday Mr. Romney is to continue alone to rally appearances in Westerville, the Cleveland area, and Toledo.
The Obama campaign said Mr. Romney has criticized the President's actions against subsidized Chinese tires and is an investor in businesses that outsourced American work to China.
"Mitt Romney is apparently trying to remake himself as a China trade warrior. But if his record is any indication, the voters of Ohio should be very wary of Romney’s empty promises on China. Just a few years ago, Romney said that the President’s decision to stand up to China on behalf of American workers in the tire industry was ‘protectionism’ and ‘decidedly bad for the nation and our workers,'" Obama campaign spokesman Lis Smith said.
"When it comes to China, Mitt Romney isn’t a trade warrior, he’s a paper tiger,” Ms. Smith said.
The gloomy weather didn't seem to dampen the enthusiasm of the large crowd, though some expressed worry at the close race.
"I think he needs to step it up a little bit. Some of the negative things Obama is doing need to be capitalized on a little bit," said Kathy Franks, 55, a floral designer from New Carlisle, Pa., who waited in a poncho with her husband, Richard Franks. She said volunteers for the Obama campaign are visibly active in her community, and even called her husband, a registered Republican, about going door to door for Mr. Obama. He declined.
Donna Hughes, 63, a retired union telephone worker from Tipp City, said she wants Mr. Romney to "be a little more aggressive, a little more forceful, don't play nice guy anymore.
She said he should emphasize patriotism, the deficit, and the idea that "we built it," a reference to Mr. Obama's comment during a Virginia campaign that Republicans have trumpeted as evidence that the President doesn't appreciate business success.
Richard Carrington, 45, a warehouse manager, said he drove more than 500 miles from Jonesboro, Ark., to hear Mr. Romney speak because Dayton was his closest opportunity.
"I believe Mr. Romney is the best candidate for President in my lifetime," Mr.Carrington said, citing Mr. Romney's "experience, hard work ethic, and charitable demeanor."
He said he has confidence in the campaign.
"I think he's got some headwinds in the media but I think he'll break through that with the debates," Mr. Carrington said.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) rallied the crowd before Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan took the stage.
"You've seen the restrained Barack Obama. The restrained Barack Obama has given you $6 trillion in new debt. Can you imagine what the unrestrained Obama will do?" Mr. Paul said.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) brought up the nonunion retirees of the Delphi Corp. who contend they lost their pensions as a result of the 2009 auto industry bailout.
"Here in the Miami Valley, Dayton, we've had a tough time. Think about the Delphi workers left behind by the Obama administration. It was not fair," Mr. Portman said.
The Obama administration and campaign have said the salaried employees' pensions were the result of agreements that were out of the administration's control.
The title of the trip is the Romney Plan for a Strong Middle Class Bus Tour.
In the morning, Mr. Romney spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative Convention in New York City where Mr. Romney "outlined his vision to bring our foreign assistance strategy into the 21st Century and harness the power of free enterprise to spur development," according to the Romney campaign.
Democrats aren't letting Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan have Ohio all to themselves.
President Obama is scheduled to campaign Wednesday in Bowling Green and Kent, Ohio. His plane traveling east from Toledo after the Bowling Green appearance could cross paths with the Romney bus on its way to Cleveland.
And Democratic former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland is leading a bus tour organized by the Democratic National Committee today with stops planned in Columbus,Toledo, and Cleveland. They call it the "Mitt Romney: Writing Off the Middle Class Bus Tour," and will be joined by local Democratic elected officials in Toledo, along with students, seniors and veterans.
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