DEFIANCE, Ohio — Mitt Romney attacked his opponent, President Obama, in this rural and manufacturing city, on education and trade, passing along a report that Chrysler might move all of its Jeep manufacturing to China, which the company has denied.
“I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China. I will fight for every good job in America, I’m going to fight to make sure trade is fair,” Mr. Romney said.
Mr. Romney’s comments, apparently in reference to the Jeep assembly plant in Toledo, came during an energetic and entertainment-filled rally in the Defiance High School football stadium.
The Obama campaign said the story about Jeep was “totally debunked.”
Chrysler Group LLC issued a statement Thursday that “Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China. It’s simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world’s largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation.”
It said the story was because of a misreading of a Bloomberg News report.
Surprise musical guest Meat Loaf belted out an endorsement for the Republican nominee for the 12,000 fans in Defiance.
Meat Loaf said he has never taken a public stand but said 2012 is the most important election in U.S. history. “One thing you’ve been taught all your life is never argue politics and religion. This year is different,” he said, telling people to argue on Mr. Romney’s behalf. He said he worked on persuading three Democrats to switch to Mr. Romney but succeeded with only two of them. “So two out of three ain’t bad,” which is the title of one of his hit songs.
Mr. Romney ended a three-city tour of Ohio here and then journeyed to Toledo to stay overnight at the Hilton Toledo Hotel. He is expected to fly out of Toledo Express Airport early today to go to a campaign event in another swing state, Iowa, before returning for a rally tonight in North Canton, Ohio.
Speaking in Cincinnati and then the Columbus suburb of Worthington, Mr. Romney stumped the state in the effort to swing battleground Ohio into his column as President Obama was simultaneously rallying supporters in Cleveland.
“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 Worthington Industries manufacturing plant near Columbus.
The global Worthington Industries processes steel for 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 prebankruptcy taxpayer bailout of Chrysler and General Motors that began under President George W. 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.
Today, Mr. Romney will close out the tour with a stop in North Canton before handing over the keys to Paul 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 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 ex-President Bill Clinton in Youngstown.
In Defiance, Mr. Romney tailored his remarks to middle-aged workers, young people, and parents. He told college students that “I know the President wants to get college students to come out and vote for him, but if they do, they’re making a big mistake. Half of them won’t be able to find a job or at least not one consistent with their college degree.”
Columbus Bureau chief Jim Provance contributed to this report.
Contact Tom Troy at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6058.