With early voting starting next week in the battleground state of Ohio, both presidential candidates are courting voters there today with greater urgency, using a sport legend and China trade to make their cases.
Republican Mitt Romney showcased his support from golfing legend Jack Nicklaus at an event this morning in Westerville, a suburb of Columbus. President Barack Obama will campaign in Ohio later today.
Romney, 65, is ramping up his schedule as he tries to tamp down complaints from some Republican leaders that he has spent too much time raising money. With two new polls showing Obama leading in Ohio, Romney stepped up his attacks on the incumbent during his two-day bus tour of the state, which started yesterday and includes three events today.
“After the debates and after the campaigns and after all the ads are over, the people of Ohio are going to say loud and clear on Nov. 6 we can’t afford four more years,” Romney told about 2,000 supporters at a school.
Nicklaus, 72, sometimes called the Golden Bear by his fans, said he likes Romney because of his free-market views.
“I didn’t lean on someone else in tough times,” he said of his golf game. “And when I won, I certainly didn’t apologize for my success.”
When Obama, 51, returns to the state today, he’ll focus on younger voters with speeches at Bowling Green University and Kent State University.
A Washington Post poll released yesterday showed Obama leading in the state among likely voters, 52 percent to 44 percent. The survey showed 36 percent of all Ohio voters say they have been contacted by the Obama campaign, while 29 percent said that of Romney.
The Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll released today gave Obama a 53 percent to 43 percent advantage in Ohio.
After Florida, where polls show Obama with a small lead, Ohio is the second-largest state among the 10 or so that strategists from both parties say will decide the election. No Republican has won the White House without carrying Ohio, which has 18 of the 270 Electoral College votes needed. Obama has a 25-point lead among women in the state.
One of Romney’s challenges is making the case for change as the economy is improving. Ohio’s unemployment rate in August was 7.2 percent, lower than the national figure of 8.1 percent.
Obama, Romney and their allies aired more than 29,000 ads on Ohio television stations in the 30-day period ended Sept. 17, the most in any state.
Romney, as part of an attack on Obama’s economic record at a rally yesterday outside Dayton, said the president has been too lenient in dealing with China on trade issues.
“When people cheat, that kills jobs,” he said. “China has cheated. I will not allow that to continue.”
Romney has said one of five executive orders he would issue on his first day in the White House would be to direct the Treasury Department to list China as a currency manipulator.
The president plans to respond to Romney’s attacks when he returns to Ohio. He will highlight the trade cases the U.S. has filed against China since he took office and accuse Romney of profiting from companies that shipped jobs to China, according to the Obama campaign.
The Obama administration last week filed a challenge at the World Trade Organization accusing China of illegally subsidizing exports of automobiles and auto parts. The complaint was filed the day Obama campaigned in Ohio.
As a private-equity executive, Romney “invested in companies that shipped American jobs to China,” Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for Obama’s campaign, said in a statement yesterday.
Romney and his aides said that even with Obama’s lead in polls, it’s too early to dismiss his chances in Ohio.
“We trust our internal polls,” Rich Beeson, Romney’s political director, told reporters on Romney’s campaign plane. “I don’t make any campaign decisions based on what I read in the Washington Post.”
Beeson said Obama’s campaign is displaying excess confidence, like a U.S. football player who celebrates before crossing into the end-zone for a score.
“They are sort of spiking the ball at the 30-yard line right now,” he said. “There are still 42 days to go. We are, by any stretch, inside the margin of error in Ohio.”
Romney is seeking to rebound from the political damage caused by the release last week of a secretly recorded video in which he told donors that 47 percent of Americans feel victimized and entitled to federal help and aren’t likely to support his candidacy.
Asked about those comments in a CNN interview yesterday, Romney said he is “overwhelmingly committed to helping every American,” especially those “ in the middle and at the bottom that are struggling in the Obama economy.”
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