Biden focuses on Ohio economy during visit to state

VP stays at Hilton Hotel Toledo

10/22/2012
BY JIM PROVANCE AND KATE GIAMMARISE
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Overnight guest Don Welker, left, from New Jersey, checks in with Laura Roman, Front Office Manager, right,  in the lobby of the Toledo Hilton where Vice President Joe Biden is staying overnight.
Overnight guest Don Welker, left, from New Jersey, checks in with Laura Roman, Front Office Manager, right, in the lobby of the Toledo Hilton where Vice President Joe Biden is staying overnight.

In some ways, the lobby of the Hilton Hotel Toledo looked like any other upscale hotel might on a Monday night -- a few guests checking in, some walking through to the bar, others sitting in the oversized chairs in the lobby, looking at their smart phones.

But the Toledo Police officer standing near the entrance, the Secret Service officials, and the several people wearing blue Obama/Biden T-shirts hinted at the hotel's VIP guest -- Vice President Joe Biden. Mr. Biden stayed in Toledo Monday night after other campaign stops during the day in northeast Ohio.

The vice president arrived at the local hotel near the University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio, at 6:24 p.m., after speaking before crowds in Lorain and Canton. He spent the night locally in advance of a rally today at the University of Toledo.

"We feel privileged," said Derek Chojnowski, the hotel's general manager. The hotel was still hosting other guests as usual, with added security, of course.

Numerous law enforcement officials in their vehicles, including from the Toledo Police and Fire departments, Lucas County Sheriff's Office, and the Ohio Highway Patrol, remained at the hotel for security reasons shortly before and after Mr. Biden's arrival.

Preparations at the hotel began about a week in advance, said Beverly McLaughlin, the hotel's assistant director of sales. She said the entire staff of about 130 people was critical to the visit.

Barb Bueschen, revenue manager for the hotel, said campaign staff on this and previous visits have been "very generous with their time and thanking us for what we do. They are very appreciative and don't want to inconvenience our Monday through Friday guests."

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland applauds as Vice President Joe Biden reacts from the crowd during a campaign stop today at the J. Babe Stearn Community Center in Canton, Ohio.
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland applauds as Vice President Joe Biden reacts from the crowd during a campaign stop today at the J. Babe Stearn Community Center in Canton, Ohio.

For hotel guest Don Welker, who is from New Jersey and was in town for work, his night would be business as usual, as he said he didn't plan to watch the final presidential debate between President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

"I'm ready to watch some football and baseball tonight," he said.

With that final presidential debate dedicated to foreign policy, Vice President Biden focused like a laser beam Monday on the Ohio economy that he and his boss hope could be their ticket to a second term.

In the visits to Ohio, he picked up on President Obama’s recent characterization of what he’s claimed is a shifting of positions on the part of Republican Mitt Romney as “Romnesia.” He also claimed that GOP running mate Paul Ryan has it too.

“It’s contagious,” Mr. Biden told a cheering crowd of about 1,300 at Lorain High School. “Ryan has it now. Amazing. Ryan said his budget, heralded by the right as a bold effort to fundamentally change spending, cut entitlements, etc. ... all of a sudden he said before our debate: We don’t cut the budget. We just slow the growth. Slow the growth.

“Right now Ryan is denying that his budget decimates Medicare, eviscerates education..,” he said. “Him talking about how his budget doesn’t do great harm to the middle-class concern is like telling a guy in the unemployment line: Look, I didn’t outsource your job. I just off-shored your job.”

He accused Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan of ignoring improving unemployment rates, housing starts, and other economic numbers in order to tear down the nation’s economy.

“America’s not in decline,’ Mr. Biden said. “Romney and Ryan are in denial. In Ohio, like where I’m from, there is no quit in America. The American people are bringing their country back, and they will not go back.”

The campaign is counting on Ohio’s better-than-national-average numbers — a 7.0 percent unemployment rate compared to a national average of 7.8 percent — to give it the edge in what is increasingly seen as a must-win state. No Republican has made it to the White House without going through Ohio, and no Democrat has done it in 52 years.

“Together, we can win Ohio, and if we win Ohio, we win this election,” Mr. Biden said in Lorain.

A new poll from Quinnipiac University and CBS News on Monday shows President Obama losing some support in Ohio, but still holding at 50 percent -- 5 percentage points ahead of Mr. Romney.

A second poll, by the Boston-based Suffolk University, had the two candidates running in a 47 percent tie.

The Quinnipiac/CBS Poll has consistently reported the most positive polling numbers for Mr. Obama, a pattern that held true in 2008, as well.

Ohioans have been voting since Oct. 2, and Monday marked the first day of extended voting hours, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Weekdays.

“An unemployed worker in [Mr. Romney’s own] Massachusetts calls the state help-line,” Mr. Biden told a crowd of about 850 at a community center in Canton. “She calls to ask about her unemployment benefits. She ends up talking to somebody in another country, who has the job she could have been doing. And this is the guy who’s running ads here nonstop in Ohio saying he’s going to get tough on China? Come on, man. Please.”

Standing behind him while he said this was former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, who had his own embarrassing call-center outsourcing problem during his tenure.

For a federal stimulus program related to rebates for the purchase of new household appliances, his Department of Development contracted with a Texas call center that used employees in El Salvador to answer Ohio calls.

Monday’s and today's stops were part of a three-day Ohio tour. Later today, after the rally at UT, Mr. Biden will join Mr. Obama, fresh from the debate the night before, in Dayton, and then Mr. Biden will stay in the state for a rally in Marion. Mr. Obama will be back in the state on Thursday.

With the exception of Marion, all of the counties the pair will visit backed Mr. Obama in 2008.

Both Mr. Romney and running mate Paul Ryan are expected back in Ohio later this week.

“Vice President Biden may believe there is a renaissance in manufacturing happening in the Buckeye State, but don’t tell that to the 6,400 Ohioans who lost manufacturing’ jobs in the month of September,” Romney spokesman Robert Reid said. “President Obama has issued major new regulations at an unprecedented rate, stalled trade negotiations, and raised taxes on hundreds of thousands of small businesses, causing the United States to lose its competitive edge and cede its leadership in the manufacturing sector to China.

“As president, Mitt Romney will move to label China a currency manipulator on Day One, fight their unfair subsidies, protect our intellectual property rights, make sure trade rules are fair and enforced, and keep more jobs here in America,” he said.

Carla Reichlin, of nearby Elyria, stood in the Lorain crowd as she fed her 5-month-old daughter, Heidi-Mae. She showed support for the Obama ticket despite the dollar signs that Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan have indicated await her daughter when she grows up due to the nation’s mounting debt.

“We want to see funding for things that are important for babies this age,” she said. “I can’t imagine her growing up without Sesame Street. Not that she’s formula-fed, but he wants to cut WIC [federal Women, Infants, and Children program] funding.

“I work for an OB-GYN,” she said. “Ninety percent of my population relies on Medicaid, WIC, food stamps, and all those things.”

Joe Stowell, of the Canton suburb of Louisville, considers himself an independent, but the last time he voted for a Republican for president was Ronald Reagan in 1980. A retired Navy recruiter, he’s a fan of Mr. Biden’s shoot-from-the-hip style, even if his words sometimes get him into trouble.

He said he thinks that may help get the President re-elected on Nov. 6.

“The Utica shale in Ohio up from the northeast and southern part of the state has really been a boon to the state, and it’s been a boon to employment of the state,” he said. “I understand now the state’s unemployment rate is down to 7 percent. As far as I know, the President and his administration have encouraged it. They want it done right naturally, but they have encouraged the drilling of Utica shale. Overall, the economy in Ohio is going to be a firewall for the President. It’s going to help him get re-elected.”

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.