Former President Bill Clinton barnstormed the state of Ohio on Thursday, starting with a speech in Perrysburg Township, where he defended President Obama’s policies and blasted Republican Mitt Romney on a variety of topics, including claims that Chrysler and General Motors were shipping American jobs to China.
Mr. Clinton powered through a 37-minute speech in front of a crowd of 1,850 at Owens Community College, his trademark raspy voice even raspier from his heavy speaking schedule, raising the question of whether he’d be able to live up to his commitments at Akron and Chillicothe. He did.
“Now they say Jeep is moving jobs to China thanks to Obama. When Karl Rove is putting that secret money in here, that’s the kind of thing they think they can sell,” Mr. Clinton said in Perrrysburg Township, appropriate considering that Chrysler makes Jeeps in Toledo and has a machining plant in Perrysburg Township, and GM makes drivetrains in Toledo.
He said Jeep “went ballistic” over Mr. Romney’s initial statement, which was that Jeep was considering moving all of its production to China.
“You know what the Romney people did when Jeep [corrected] them, they upped their money on the false ad — that should be all you need to know,” he said.
The Romney campaign has stuck by its ads as accurate, citing a report in Bloomberg and Chrysler’s acknowledgement that they plan to build Jeeps in China that will be sold in China, even while the company expands production in Toledo with 1,100 new jobs expected early in 2013.
One of those at Mr. Clinton’s rally was Chrysler worker Brian Sims, 48, a Jeep assembly plant overtime coordinator, a union position. He said he heard the Romney radio ad and knew it wasn’t true, but he called United Auto Workers Local 12 President Bruce Baumhower to make sure.
“[Mr. Romney] said something about Jeep going to China and he was going to prevent that. There’s nothing to prevent,” Mr. Sims said. “Jeep has always made Jeeps in China.” He noted that Fiat Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne said that Jeep assembly in China was shut down in 2009 because of Chrysler’s bankruptcy and was being restarted.
Mr. Clinton put in a long day in support of Mr. Obama, starting with a rally in Wisconsin in the morning, a speech to 1,850 at the John S. Knight Center at the University of Akron, and ending the day with a rally at Ohio University, Chillicothe campus.
At Owens, he addressed his audience as “Pennsylvania” but was corrected by the crowd. He said he was reading from a speech prepared for Pennsylvania, but the verbal misstep prompted him to enlarge on Ohio’s role as representative of the country.
“Ohio has the best distribution of midsized cities in the country. Ohio is growing ever more diverse, like America. Ohio has a lot of small towns and rural areas. It really is a microcosm of where we’ve been, where we are, where we’re going,” Mr. Clinton said.
The former president, who served from 1993 to 2001, ranged widely over policy issues to back Mr. Obama and to undercut Mr. Romney.
He said no President could have been expected to fully heal the economy in four years, but Mr. Obama is doing it faster than “the competition,” referring to Europe. He backed Mr. Obama’s plans for cutting the deficit by $2.5 million for every $1 million in extra revenue, and he said it makes sense to invest in research and development of the solar and wind energy industries because of the wealth of sun and wind. Those industries, he said, employ 25,000 Ohioans.
He said the Obama plan is to “invest in the jobs of tomorrow, work with the private sector that is growing new jobs, and educate and empower the American people to do those jobs.”
The Romney plan, he said, is to cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans, cut investments in renewable energy and education, and repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. “It’s more important to give me another tax cut than to help millions and millions and millions of people. Now if you want that, you can vote for it. But don’t pretend you’re not voting for it if you vote for Mitt Romney,” Mr. Clinton said.
“President Obama can’t run from the facts,” said Chris Maloney, Romney for President spokesman. “As a result of his handling of the auto bailout, American taxpayers stand to lose $25 billion and GM and Chrysler are expanding their production overseas. Unlike President Obama, Mitt Romney has a comprehensive plan to revive manufacturing, create millions of good-paying jobs, and deliver real change and a real recovery. The criticism proves that partisan allies are not interested in engaging in a meaningful conversation about the Obama Administration’s failed record during the last week of the campaign.”
Mr. Clinton told college students in the crowd that Mr. Obama’s plan is to allow students to repay their college loans based on their income, which means “that nobody will ever have to drop out again because of the cost of education.” He said graduates will be able to afford to give a couple of years to teach in an inner-city school or work in an inner-city clinic and still repay their college loans.
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