TOLEDO, Ohio — Claiming momentum in the Republican presidential race the morning after his triumphs in Michigan and Arizona, Mitt Romney took his campaign promise of more jobs to this economically ravaged pocket of the country’s Rust Belt.
Romney focused squarely on the economy as he addressed a small rally Wednesday morning in a Toledo factory that makes steel fence posts, assailing President Obama’s stewardship of the economy and accusing him of being “walked all over” by China.
Visiting a region that has seen thousands of manufacturing jobs go overseas, Romney tried to project strength in dealing with China, which he said was “cheating” by keeping its currency at artificially low levels to keep the prices of their products down. If elected, he said, he would declare China a “currency manipulator.”
“They’ve been able to put American businesses out of business and kill American jobs,” Romney said. “They also steal our designs and our patents and our brand names and our know-how. . .This president has sat idly by and watched that happen. Oh, he complains. He says he would take them to the mat. But they’ve walked all over him. If I’m president of the United States, that’s gonna end.”
As he embarks on a campaign sprint heading into the Super Tuesday contest of 10 primaries and caucuses, Romney is returning to the economic themes that have driven his campaign from the beginning. While the former Massachusetts governor has not brought up hot-button social issues like abortion, gay marriage and religious liberty in recent days, he repeatedly trumpeted his new slogan here Wednesday: “More jobs, less debt and smaller government.”
“I want to go to work for the American worker,” Romney said. “I want to make sure that we see good jobs again, rising incomes again. And I don’t want to pass our burdens on to the next generation with bigger and bigger debt and bigger and bigger government. For me, this is all about more jobs, less debt and smaller government — that’s what I know how.”
Among the roughly 150 people at Romney’s rally was Sam Wurzelbacher, the conservative Ohio activist who earned the moniker “Joe the Plumber” when he questioned then-candidate Obama about his tax policy during the 2008 presidential campaign. Wurzelbacher told reporters he was not endorsing a candidate in this year’s GOP primary.
Romney spoke at American Posts, a family-owned fence-post maker in Toledo, which Romney congratulated for having grown its market share in the face of Chinese competitors in recent years. During a brief tour of the company’s facility, Romney was invited to press the button that starts the machine that turns sheets of steel into U-shaped fence posts.
“I gotta press the button,” Romney said jokingly. “That will be my heavy lift in terms of manufacturing.”
In his speech here, Romney did not mention any of his Republican opponents by name, making only a veiled reference to them when contrasting their experience as elected officials with his years in the business world.
“Do you want someone who’s spent his life in the private sector, who understands where jobs come from?” Romney asked. “Or do you want someone who’s spent his career in Washington? There are a couple of guys who spent their entire career in Washington who you can vote for. I just don’t think we’re going to beat Barack Obama and get our country back on track if we have guys whose resume looks like his resume.”
From Toledo, Romney heads to a town hall meeting in Bexley, Ohio, before jetting to North Dakota, where he will campaign on Thursday morning. Romney will stump in Idaho and Washington state before returning this weekend to Ohio, which has emerged as the marquee Super Tuesday battleground.