Tough talk on China directed at Ohio


“There’s one thing that’s gonna happen tonight that’s really important for Ohio, and there’s one foreign policy issue that matters there and that is China,” Time’s Joe Klein said of tonight’s presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.

The third and final debate, which will be moderated by Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer, deals exclusively with foreign policy. Schieffer outlined these specific categories:

  • America’s role in the world
  • Our longest war - Afghanistan and Pakistan
  • Red Lines - Israel and Iran
  • The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism - I
  • The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism - II
  • The Rise of China and Tomorrow’s World

So why will China matter so much in this debate, and why are China and Ohio being mentioned in the same breath?

That, of course, has everything to do with the president’s auto bailout, which Romney famously opposed in a 2008 New York Times Op-Ed. Last month, President Obama also filed a trade case against China at the World Trade Organization.

And the statistics are oft repeated:

Ohio has the second-highest total automotive industry employment after Michigan, with almost 850,000 jobs from manufacturing, parts and dealers, according to an April 2010 report by the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.

The center concluded that under a worst-case bankruptcy scenario for Chrysler and GM under which GM never fully recovers, Ohio would have lost more than 201,000 auto-related jobs in 2009 and 2010, a May 2009 report said.

The industry accounts for 4 percent of Ohio’s jobs, and since 2009, the start of Obama’s bailout initiatives, auto-related jobs have increased by 6.1 percent, or 11,100 jobs in Ohio, according to Bloomberg Government.

That has helped keep the unemployment rate lower than the national average, the analysis concluded. In August, the jobless rate in the Buckeye State was 7.2 percent compared with the U.S. rate of 8.1 percent that month.

Ohio, of course, is crucial to both campaigns. The latest Quinnipiac University/CBS News poll finds Obama leading Romney 50% to 45%. That’s a decline for the president since September 26 when he led Romney 53% to 43%. Early voters in Ohio have voted 54% for the president, 39% for Romney, the poll also shows. Many on the Morning Joe panel have been quick to point out no Republican has ever won the presidency without the state.

Klein suggested Romney’s newly toughened stance on China is the result of focus groups in Ohio, a stance that Klein largely says is a bad idea:

“In the middle of the country, in the rust belt and the old industrial areas they think we’re losing jobs [to China] and that we’re slipping behind them,” Klein said. “Romney is taking a position that Bill Clinton and every last challenger has taken for the last 20 years, which is we have to get tougher with China. That’s a stupid policy because you’re going to have a trade war. The question is: What does the president do to counter Romney’s aggressiveness tonight?”

So with all eyes on Ohio after the release of today’s new poll numbers, how will Romney proceed in discussing China? How will the president respond?

Watch a new Obama Ohio ad hitting Romney on the auto bailout

Tough talk on China directed at Ohio