President Barack Obama said Friday that his support for the auto industry bailout and policies like Race to the Top will help Ohio rebuild its middle class and prepare local students for an increasingly competitive workforce.
“It’s not just a choice between two parties or two candidates, but two different visions for America,” Obama said of Tuesday’s election as he spoke to about 4,000 supporters at a rally at Springfield High School.
Despite the bailout, millions of Americans remain unemployed or underemployed, said Lynda Smith, chairman of the Clark County Republican Party. She cited new unemployment figures that showed the national jobless rate at 7.9 percent.
“I can’t see how he can say it has worked, and if he’s re-elected we’ll have the same policies for four more years,” Smith said of Obama.
The campaigns of Gov. Mitt Romney and Obama have targeted Ohio intensely, with multiple last-minute stops planned through Monday. Obama on Friday departed from his recent strategy of big-city stops, visiting Hilliard, Springfield and Lima in succession.
The support for the auto industry bailout, Obama said, provides a sharp contrast from Romney, who Obama argued was willing to let the industry go bankrupt. While he acknowledged it was not a popular decision at the time, Obama said one in eight jobs in Ohio are tied to the industry. The bailout, he argued, helped companies like General Motors and Chrysler recover and eventually put laid off employees back to work. Romney has previously said he was against the bailout but would have helped keep the companies afloat by seeking a structured bankruptcy.
A recent Romney campaign advertisement that implied Chrysler planned to move Jeep production jobs to China also drew a rebuke from Obama, who described the ad as a deceptive scare tactic.
“This is not a game,” Obama said. “These are people’s jobs. These are people’s lives.”
Although Chrysler does plan to produce vehicles in China, the company’s chairman has said they will not be shifting production lines from the U.S. to China to do the work. Instead, the company plans to invest as much as $500 million into its Toledo facility and add jobs as early as 2013, according to information from the company.
“You don’t scare hard-working Americans just to scare up a few votes,” Obama said. “That’s not what being president is about.”
Smith cited complaints that Obama allowed Delphi union retiree pensions to be topped off with $1 billion in federal funds during the bailout while more than 20,000 non-union salaried retirees saw their pensions cut from between 30 and 70 percent.
Smith also said Obama has done a poor job of working across the aisle with Republicans throughout his presidency.
“You need to go in with an open mind and listen to all the ideas, which he has not done,” Smith said.
The president also highlighted the need for investment in education and infrastructure to help rebuild the economy. Among his proposals, Obama said if re-elected he would push to recruit more than 100,000 science and math teachers nationwide in order to help students keep pace with other industrialized countries, as well as train 2 million Americans at community colleges to help prepare them for new skills needed in manufacturing and other industries.
He pointed to Springfield High School, site of the rally, as an example of how his policies will benefit local students. Ohio is one of several states that received federal funding for Race to the Top, a competitive grant that will provide millions of dollars in exchange for reforms designed to improve teacher accountability and close the achievement gap between students.
“This school that we’re in is an example of a school that’s making incredible reforms,” Obama said of the Springfield City School District. “The Race to the Top program that we put together, this is one of the winners of Race to the Top, this school right here.”
The president’s policies have been beneficial to Springfield, said Mayor Warren Copeland, who helped introduce the president during the rally. Along with Race to the Top, Copeland said Obama’s policies have helped keep more police officers on the street. The city has also received more than $6 million in Neighborhood Stabilization Program II grant money since 2008, which it has used to renovate several homes and eliminate blight in the city.
Clark County has been a swing county in a swing state. Copeland noted that Springfield has played a strong role in presidential elections.
“In 1960, John Kennedy came to Springfield and went on to win,” Copeland said. “In 1992, Bill Clinton came to Springfield and went on to win. Today, Barack Obama comes to Springfield and next Tuesday he will win.”
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