President Obama speaks to supporters at the Stroh Center in Bowling Green,… (J.D. Pooley / Getty Images )
BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – President Obama on Wednesday compared GOP nominee Mitt Romney to a fox guarding the henhouse when it comes to cracking down on China on trade.
Speaking to a crowd on campus at Bowling Green State University, Obama noted that Romney’s former private equity firm invested in Chinese companies and said the former Massachusetts governor was profiting at the expense of American jobs.
“He’s been talking tough on China. He’s going to take it to them,” Obama said. “When you hear this newfound outrage, it feels a lot like that fox saying, ‘We need more secure chicken coops.’ I mean, it’s not just credible.”
The two candidates have been sparring over China and trade for weeks, part of an effort to woo working-class voters in the Rust Belt. The region has seen thousands of manufacturing jobs move to China, where companies often benefit from government subsidies, export incentives and artificially low currency.
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Both Romney and Obama have said they’ll get tough on China. Romney has promised to designate China a currency manipulator – a step that would trigger fresh negotiations and possibly U.S. sanctions, but might also set off a trade war.
Alleging that China was illegally subsidizing exports of automobile parts, Obama last week filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization.
On Wednesday, Obama argued that he has brought more such trade cases in one term than the previous administration did in two.
But Republicans complained that a new Obama ad on China was “hypocritical” and questioned Obama’s record in fighting the continued manipulation of currency by the Chinese government. In 2008, Obama promised to “use all diplomatic means” to address the Chinese currency issue, but he has not slapped the manipulator label on China, noted Kirsten Kukowski, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.
Both candidates were in Ohio on Wednesday, in the wake of new poll numbers that suggest Obama is widening a lead over Romney in this key swing state.
Ohio has been part of the winning map for every successful Republican presidential nominee. Since 1960, no one has been elected president without winning two of three states: Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
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Romney is betting heavily on the upcoming debates, devoting significant campaign time to preparation. Republicans on Wednesday pushed back against attempts by the White House to downplay expectations for the president’s performance by suggesting Obama has had far less time to prepare.
“He was head of the Harvard Law Review, beat Hillary Clinton and trial lawyer John Edwards in debates, beat John McCain in debates and is known for his oratory,” said Kukowski. “These transparent attempts to lower his debate expectations are ridiculous. The next thing you know they are going to claim he's going to wing it after a few beers.”
Aides to Obama say he will travel to Nevada on Sunday to spend three days preparing for the first debate, scheduled for a week from today.