WORTHINGTON, Ohio -- Mitt Romney sought to exude confidence today as he began a two-day tour of battleground Ohio just hours before President Barack Obama was to touch down.
“Those debates have helped propel my campaign, and they've slowed down the President's, and those are good things for my campaign,'' the former Massachusetts governor told an estimated crowd of about 3,000 after touring a Worthington Industries manufacturing plant near Columbus.
Some polls have shown the race for the belwether state to be a dead heat while others have given Mr. Obama a slight lead.
“We're going to have to make a decision about what kind of course we have, because when it comes to the economy and jobs, the President's agenda is more of the same,'' Mr. Romney said. “He wants to continue doing what's been done for the last four years...He calls that going 'Forward.' I call it forewarned.''
He also took aim at Mr. Obama's own recent play on words in which the President has diagnosed what he claims is Mr. Romney's shifting of positions as “Romnesia.''
Mr. Romney accused the President of playing 'word games' and talking about little things like “protecting Sesame Street” instead of laying out new ideas to ignite a sluggish economy.
He touted his broad “five-point plan” of energy independence, leveling the trade playing field with China, training America's work force for jobs of the future, improving education while taking on teachers' unions, and championing small business.
“This is an election about big things, because the American people can't afford four more years like that last four years...,'' Mr. Romney said
“I know there's a big difference between the course we're on and the course I'd take us in,” he said. “The course we're on takes us to $20 trillion in federal debt. I'm going to get us on a course to a balanced budget. The course we're on cuts Medicare $716 billion for current retirees. I'll get us on a course that puts that money back and I'll honor our promise to our retirees.”
The Obama campaign has noted that the proposed federal budget pushed by his running mate, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, and passed by the Republican-controlled House also included the $716 billion reduction in provider payments under Medicare.
The global Worthington Industries processes steel for the automotive, construction, aerospace, and other industries. Earlier in the day, Mr. Romney launched his two-day, four-stop bus tour of Ohio in Cincinnati at Jet Machine and Manufacturing Co., which makes precision parts for the automotive and other industries.
“While Mitt Romney travels Ohio, often changing his positions on key issues to suit time and place, one thing remains constant -- he keeps running into the monumental success of the auto industry in Ohio,'' said Mike Gillis,spokesman for the AFL-CIO of Ohio.
“The success of the auto industry as a result of the rescue plan executed by President Obama has been a boon for Ohio’s economy,'' he said. “The state now has an unemployment rate well below the rest of the nation and it is trending even lower. This is an inconvenient circumstance for Mitt Romney primarily because he opposed the auto rescue, and said so in an op-ed in the New York Times.”
President Obama's campaign is at least partly banking on growth of the auto industry in Ohio -- including the promised addition of a shift, 1,000 jobs, and a plant expansion well under way at Chrysler's Toledo complex — to help him carry Ohio and its 18 electoral votes on Nov. 6. On the campaign trail, he and Vice President Joe Biden have pointed out that one in eight Ohio jobs is tied to the industry, including those at auto parts suppliers.
Mr. Romney opposed the 2009 pre-bankruptcy taxpayer bailout of Chrysler and General Motors that began under President Bush and was dramatically expanded under Mr. Obama. He favored instead allowing the automakers to go through bankruptcy to shed some of their costs while Mr. Obama has argued they would have been unable to find financing to continue operating during that process.
Vince Brodkorb, of Worthington, carried his 7-month-old son and was with his 10-year-old daughter at the rally near his home. Formerly self-employed, he now works as a delivery driver while his wife works full-time.
He once attended a similar rally for Ronald Reagan in 1980. He was too young to have voted for Mr. Reagan, but he said he believes that the economic situation today is similar to what led to that Republican win.
“I personally had a small business, but I shut it down, so I've been affected by the economy directly,'' he said as he tried to shield the top of his son's head from the sun. “The company I work for probably has one third as many employees as they had probably six or seven years ago,'' Mr. Brodkorb said.
“We lost our home,'' he said. “We live in a townhome, so we've had to make all kinds of changes.”
From Worthington, Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan headed for a concert rally at Defiance High School's football stadium.
On Friday, he will close out the tour with a stop in North Canton before handing over the keys to Mr. Ryan for a solo two-day tour of New Philadelphia, Zanesville, Circleville,Yellow Springs, Celina, Findlay, and Marion.
The Findlay event is set for Sunday in the University of Findlay's Koehler Fitness Complex at 1000 N. Main St. The doors will open at 2 p.m., and the event is set for 4 p.m.
President Obama is expected back in the state on Monday when he will appear with former President Bill Clinton in Youngstown.