LORAIN, Ohio — Just a day after President Obama visited this crucial swing state, Mitt Romney spoke at a shuttered drywall company visited four years ago by then-candidate Obama to make the argument that Obama’s record has yet to live up to his lofty rhetoric.
On an empty warehouse floor, Romney laid the blame for the company’s fate squarely on Obama.
“Had the president’s economic plans worked ... it would be open by now, but it’s still empty,” Romney said. “It underscores the failure of this president’s policies with regards to getting this economy going again. The other day, the president was in Ohio, and he said that this campaign was going to come down to his vision. His vision for America. If you want to know where his vision leads, open your eyes, because we’ve been living it for the last three years.”
The company actually shut down in June 2008, months before Obama took office and his economic policies took effect.
In his visit to the factory, Romney underscored a key problem with his argument on the economy: While he wants to lay the blame largely on Obama, polls show that voters still lay some blame on President George W. Bush.
(According to a Washington Post/ABC poll from January 2012, 54 percent of Americans — including one in five Republicans — say Bush is primarily responsible for the economic problems, while only 29 percent point to Obama.)
Romney campaign aides said that Obama hasn’t delivered on the promise to jump-start the economy.
“The fact that it struggled through the last three years is not the fault of Barack Obama’s predecessor, it’s the fault of this administration and the failure of their policies to really get this economy going again,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, a Romney aide.
But in Ohio, the economy is improving.
With an unemployment rate of 7.6 percent in February, Ohio’s jobless stats are lower than the national average of 8.2 percent. The unemployment rate, which peaked at 10.6 percent in December 2009, has steadily fallen since then — it was at 8.6 percent when Obama took office in January 2009.
“In a speech that he concluded by saying he’d ‘tell the truth,’ Mitt Romney actually didn’t tell the truth about President Obama’s record and his own failed record in Massachusetts — all while blaming the President for a plant closing that occurred before he took office,” said Liz Smith, an Obama campaign spokeswoman, in an e-mailed response to Romney’s address. “Mitt Romney is building quite a record of giving speeches filled with distortions and fabrications. Why does he have such an aversion to the truth?”
Over the past days, Romney has engaged in an aggressive state-to-state challenge of Obama — he appeared Wednesday in Charlotte, where Obama will accept his party’s nomination in September.
“He’d like to be able to run on his words, but we have to make sure that he cannot run away from his record, because that record has not worked for the American people,” Romney said.
In his 20-minute address, Romney rarely touched on his own record as governor of Massachusetts or as head of Bain Capital. For much of his address, he focused instead on Obama’s record, and only touched briefly on what he would do in the White House.
In addition to his more confrontational tone with Obama this week, Romney has also sought to be a bit more personable.
Earlier this week he sat down with four married couples for a staged outdoor picnic in Bethel Park, Pa., and suggested that Obama should do the same.
“This is a president who doesn’t understand what the American people are experiencing,” Romney said. “He needs to sit down with folks and understand how difficult these years have been and take responsibility.”