CELINA, Ohio -- Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney re-routed his campaign from Virginia to Ohio earlier today than planned to avoid an approaching hurricane and drove into a different kind of storm, one kicked up by his disputed claim last week in Defiance about Chysler's Italian owners planning to move "all" Jeep production to China.
Mr. Romney today renewed the China claim in a new ad, but with a key tweak leaving out the word "all."
The former Massachusetts governor is campaigning today at rallies in Republican Ohio - Celina in Mercer County, Marion, and Findlay. He was not expected in the state until the evening, but canceled a Virginia appearance because of the approaching hurricane.
He didn't address the auto industry as he rallied an enthusiastic crowd of 2,000 that packed the old-fashioned high school gym in Celina.
Instead he dwelled on kitchen-table issues, accusing President Obama of plans that will turn doctors away from Medicare, cause the loss of jobs, and deny parents the choice of sending their children to a charter school or other public school, because of political contributions from public school teacher unions.
"[Paul Ryan] and I are going to make sure that all the federal dollars in education go to the student so the student and his parents or her parents can choose the school they want," Mr. Romney said.
The Obama campaign said Mr. Obama supports merit pay to hold teachers accountable and the expansion of effective charter schools.
The Romney crowd in Celina was large enough that another 1,000 filled the stands in the football stadium where U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio), U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green), vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, and Mr. Romney repeated parts of their speeches after the rally in the field house of the Celina Education Complex.
The Obama campaign blasted Mr. Romney's remarks in Celina.
"Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan carried on with their tour of misleading voters, this time in Celina, trying to hide from the fact that their agenda would result in higher taxes for middle class families, tax cuts for multi-millionaires, deep cuts to investments in education and turning Medicare into a voucher program," said Jessica Kershaw, press secretary for the Obama campaign in Ohio.
Mr. Romney's new ad portrays American cars from the 1960s being driven, and then crushed for junk.
"Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy, and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China," a narrator says.
Mr. Romney's TV ad is a more accurate interpretation of a Bloomberg News report last week than what he said at a rally in Defiance Thursday. There he told the crowd he had read a report that, "one of the great manufacturers of this state, Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China."
The Obama campaign attacked the ad as full of falsehoods.
“Mitt Romney’s new ad is a sure sign that he knows he’s in trouble in Ohio. When the American auto industry and a million workers’ jobs were on the line, Mitt Romney turned his back. Now he’s pretending it never happened and is trying to scare Ohioans by repeating a blatant falsehood that Chrysler is moving its Jeep operations to China," said Obama campaign spokesman Lis Smith.
"Even the Detroit News, which this ad cites, condemned his plan that would have let Chrysler and GM go under and praised the President for his ‘extraordinary’ rescue of the industry. Mitt Romney might be willing to do anything to close the deal, but Ohioans know where he stood when it mattered most and won’t be fooled by his dishonest ads in the final days of this campaign.”
Mr. Romney indicated his support of federal loan guarantees in the 2008 newspaper column, titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt," but he opposed the extension of federal cash directly to the two companies, which he later criticized as "crony capitalism."
President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have been in Ohio numerous times over the last two years to tout the auto industry rebound since the $80 billion 2009 auto industry rescue championed by Mr. Obama. The rebound coincides with - and, according to Democrats, is the main reason for - a better-than-average economic recovery in Ohio, where the jobless rate was 7 percent in September, compared with 7.8 percent for the nation.
The bailout is the centerpiece of the Obama re-election campaign in Ohio, whose 18 electoral votes some think will decide the election. Mr. Romney is scheduled to campaign in Ohio today and Monday, while Mr. Obama is to campaign in Ohio Monday and Wednesday.
Chrysler LLC quickly said the report Mr. Romney referred to was a biased and inaccurate interpretation of an accurate story by Bloomberg News.
In its news blog, Chrysler said, "Let’s set the record straight: 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. A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments."
Supporters of President Obama planned to gather outside a rally which Mr. Romney planned for today in Findlay. Along with them was scheduled to be Steven Rattner, the former "auto czar, who was to talk about Mr. Romney "propagating false rumors about the auto industry."
Ohio's voters are evenly divided between Mr. Romney and President Obama, according to a new poll released today by The Blade. The poll of 976 likely voters found Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney each favored by 49 percent, leaving the remaining 2 percent evenly divided between other candidates and undecided. The poll had a margin of error of 3.1 percent.