Romney camp stokes defense-cut fears

Updated
U.S Army soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 22nd Regiment, (1-22) of the 4th Infantry Division, talk onboard their M1 tank in front of a mosque in Tikrit, Iraq.
U.S Army soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 22nd Regiment, (1-22) of the 4th Infantry Division, talk onboard their M1 tank in front of a mosque in Tikrit, Iraq.
AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

While recovering from being trounced on foreign policy in a feisty debate performance from Vice President Joe Biden Thursday night, the Romney-Ryan campaign is seizing on soundbites from the night to drive fears of a decreased U.S. military presence.

The Romney campaign is out with a new radio ad for voters in Ohio, attacking President Obama and his right-hand-man Biden for downsizing the nation’s military industrial complex.

Biden came out strong in the debate, asserting that the Pentagon—including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta—advocated the cuts. “Look, the military says we need a smaller, leaner Army. We don’t need more M-1 tanks, what we need is more UAVs,” Biden said Thursday night, pushing for more unmanned aerial vehicles, a heavily contested strategy known commonly as drone strikes.

The Romney campaign latched onto the latter end of Biden’s statement for its new radio ad, playing the soundbite on loop with the vice president’s assertion: “we don’t need more tanks.”

“While the world grows more hostile and unstable every day, the White House wants to take away one of the most vital weapons in our arsenal—made right here in Ohio. Giving our troops the tools they need just isn’t a priority for Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Their own budget would shut down America’s only M-1 tank plant,” the narrator says in the radio spot.

But with the war in Iraq over and the winding down of combat in Afghanistan, the Army says it is done ordering the tanks. In a policy statement issued in May, the Obama administration rejected to authorize $321 million requested for the M-1 Abrams tank, saying they were “unneeded upgrades” in a “fiscally-constrained environment.”

The Romney campaign’s economic spin highlights the pain on the pocketbooks of factory workers and their communities in Ohio. That is, the political battleground state of Ohio. Not to mention the fact that Romney’s running-mate Rep. Paul Ryan, who squared off against Biden in the debate, is the grand architect of the Republican’s budget-slashing plan that cripples programs in the social safety net while simultaneously bolstering the military’s budget.

“As an Ohioan, you know that’s not just an attack against our ability to defend our freedom,” the ad narrator says. “It’s also an attack against our jobs and our way of life. Two attacks. Which one is worse?”

Since Obama’s devastating debate performance last week, Romney has surged in polls in key battlegrounds - all except Ohio. The president held his own in the Buckeye state and is down from leading by eight points to now six in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll. And the gap is closing.

Romney camp stokes defense-cut fears

Updated