POLITICS

Republicans try double-teaming Obama in Ohio

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President Obama wasn’t the only one firing up the bus for a battleground-state tour launched Thursday in Ohio. Mitt Romney dispatched two of his top surrogates — and potential vice presidential candidates — to the Buckeye State to blunt Obama’s appeal to blue-collar voters
there.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal used Romney’s campaign bus to offer counter programming in the perennial swing state, a strategy that some analysts said was particularly effective in the Rust Belt, which contains many of the white, working-class voters who remain Obama’s biggest liability in November.

“You have two guys that have a very appealing message to working-class Americans,” said veteran Republican strategist Mark Corallo. “They’re authentic — not the establishment Republican who throws on some jeans with a collared shirt and tries to look like one of you — I think it’s a brilliant strategy that Romney will deploy throughout the campaign.”



Pawlenty, a blue-collar former governor from a blue state, carries unique appeal in the Midwest that could help shore up concerns about Romney’s ‘regular-guy’ deficiency, Corallo explained.

So as Obama touted his bailout of the auto industry and announced a complaint filed by his administration against a Chinese tariff on U.S. cars, the pair of GOP governors reminded Ohio voters that Obama’s economic performance had fallen well short of lofty campaign promises.

“President Obama’s coming through Ohio today on a tour that’s been dubbed ‘Betting on America.’ Well, we should all bet on the country but we shouldn’t double down on Barack Obama,” Pawlenty, said before the president’s speech in the suburbs of Toledo. “He’s had his chance. It’s not working. And we need to get it moving in a different direction.”

With Obama stepping up his attacks on Romney as a so-called “corporate raider” focused more on profit than keeping jobs on U.S. soil, Pawlenty’s and Jindal’s political tour is hardly a
coincidence.

Though Jindal dismissed Obama’s rhetoric as “class warfare,” such populist calls play well in union strongholds in Ohio, a state that has picked every presidential winner since 1964. The same holds true for Pittsburgh, where both Pawlenty and Jindal will bracket an Obama campaign event on
Friday.

But some questioned whether Romney’s allies would do much to counteract Obama’s message or woo the same blue-collar voters the president so desperately
covets.

“If Pawlenty is so effective in reaching that group, why did his campaign die in Iowa?” asked Dennis Goldford, a political scientist at Drake University, who focuses on political races in Midwestern states. “Pawlenty has a certain appeal with blue-collar voters, but remember Romney, who had his John Kerry moment riding those Jet Skis [on vacation this week], is still at the top of the ticket.”

And Jindal, a Southern governor dubbed a rising GOP star, exerts far more influence in the Sunbelt than the industrial Midwest, political observers said.

Not to be outdone by the GOP bracketing efforts, Democrats provided their own bracketing to the rebuttals given by Pawlenty and Jindal.

Speaking about Romney before one of the president’s three speeches in northern Ohio, former Ohio Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland drew widespread applause when he said Romney was hiding his personal wealth “in the Cayman Islands, in Switzerland and God only knows where else” and “took money from shadowy South American investors when he started Bain
Capital.”

Obama, with the GOP governors in his shadow, will conclude his bus tour Friday at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

bhughes@washingtonexaminer.com

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