VANDALIA, Ohio — Republican running mates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan double-teamed Ohio on Tuesday, harping on the rising national debt under President Obama and directly promising to raise take-home pay as the two continued a combined six-city sweep through Ohio.
With polls showing the Romney camp in an uphill climb to win the critically important swing state of Ohio, Mr. Romney started in the Dayton area and was to continue today in Democratic strongholds in suburban Cleveland and downtown Toledo in a play to win over independent voters and motivate the Republican base.
His voice sounding raspy, Mr.Romney rallied some 2,700 cheering supporters in an outdoor gathering on the tarmac behind Wright Brothers Aviation at Dayton International Airport. The event was threatened by, and occasionally spattered with, rain.
Mr. Romney and President Obama are battling for Ohio's 18 electoral votes in their 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.
While Mr. Romney is to reach out to voters in Westerville, Bedford Heights, and Toledo today, Mr. Obama is to make his 13th visit to Ohio, stumping on the campuses of Bowling Green and Kent State Universities, likely sucking some of the air out of Mr. Romney's bus blitz through the Buckeye State.
"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 package.
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 "know-how," and have counterfeited goods.
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, Ohio, 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 stop 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 Vandalia 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.
Earlier, in Cincinnati, Mr. Ryan related the questionable referee calls in Monday Night Football to the election.
“Did you watch that Packer game last night? I mean give me a break," he told a friendly crowd gathered on the floor of a Cincinnati steel manufacturing plant.
“It’s time to get the real refs," Mr. Ryan said. “And you know it reminds me of Obama and the economy. If you can’t get it right, it’s time to get out.’’
Mr. Ryan was in Lima on Monday and will be back in Columbus on Saturday for a sportsmen’s event.
Inside the steel plant, a digital national debt tally showed that it had passed the $16 trillion mark.
“Republicans and Democrats were a party to the mess in Washington, and that’s one of the reasons we have the debt we have today,’’ Mr. Ryan said. “It was a function of both political parties making lots of empty promises to voters for decades to get votes."
Mr. Ryan took a question from a Hispanic immigrant woman, a Republican who wanted to know how the party's ticket was going to make its case to the Hispanic community. Polls have shown that a huge share of the Hispanic vote in the nation is expected to go to Mr. Obama, with Mr. Romney garnering even less than John McCain did four years ago.
His answer was jobs, noting Latinos have been badly hurt by the stagnant economy.
“What Mitt and I are offering is an agenda for prosperity for everybody to have a chance to climb the ladder and get out of poverty to get to self-sufficiency…,’’ Mr. Ryan said. “President Obama made all these grand promises when he ran in 2008, lots of promises, hope and change. It’s now, I would say, attack and blame.
“But among the promises he made was that he was going to fix the broken immigration system,’’ he said. “Remember, he came into office with total control of government. … His party was in total control … but he didn’t try to fix the broken immigration system. That’s one of the biggest broken promises.’’
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