President Obama waves during a campaign event at Scott High School in Toledo,… (J.D. Pooley / Getty Images )
TOLEDO -- President Obama says he refused to “take a knee” and do nothing to save the faltering auto industry after he took office in 2009, as he courted workers in a crucial battleground state in a Labor Day campaign event.
In this union-heavy Ohio city, home to a Chrysler-owned Jeep assembly factory and a GM transmissions plant, Obama said his auto bailout plan saved the industry, and added that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney would have let Detroit go bankrupt.
“Think about what that would have meant not just for Ohio but for America," Obama said. "You would have been benched for good.”
“We’re not about to take a knee and do nothing,” he went on. “I stood with American workers. I stood with American manufacturing.”
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Monday was the third day of Obama’s “Road to Charlotte” tour, a four-state swing that will bring him into to the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, the day before he is scheduled to accept the nomination. His administration’s successful bailout of General Motorsand the Chrysler Group is likely to be a key feature of prime-time convention speeches.
Romney was not scheduled to campaign on Monday. The former Massachusetts governor was relaxing and planning to go boating with his family at their New Hampshire lake home, aides said.
That’s a contrast the Obama campaign welcomed. The president has sought to portray his wealthy rival as out of touch with working Americans.
After Obama arrived here, his motorcade cruised through a blue-collar neighborhood in south Toledo as a steady stream of onlookers waved. One held a sign that read “Toledo-built Jeep. Thank you, Pres. Obama.”
The president ate breakfast with three union auto workers at Rick’s City Diner, where he waxed nostalgic about his first new car -- a Jeep.
“I remember sitting in that car when it was all bright and shiny,” he said. “Love that car.”
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Speaking later to a crowd in a high school gym, Obama trotted out a new, and rather extended, sports metaphor.
Fresh off the opening of college football season -- Ohio State beat Miami of Ohio on Saturday – Obama said Romney’s playbook is all out of whack. On the first down, Obama said, Romney would cut taxes for the rich. Second down, call an audible to undo financial reforms, and so on. And on.
“I’ve got one piece of advice for you,” Obama finally said. “Punt it away. It won’t work. It won’t win the game. You don’t need that coach. That’s a losing season.”
“Over 23 million people are struggling for work this Labor Day, and President Obama once again offered no new ideas for getting our economy back on track,” Amanda Henneberg, Romney campaign spokesperson, wrote in an e-mail to reporters. “It’s time,” she added, “to get a new coach.”
[For the Record, 1:08 p.m. PST Sept. 3] This post has been updated to include the Romney campaign's response to Obama.]