Biden, campaigning for Obama in Ohio, touts auto bailout

March 16, 2012

By Michael A. Memoli, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Toledo, Ohio— For months, President Obama‘s campaign has searched for an overarching theme for his reelection bid, something to replace the enthusiastic “hope and change” motif of 2008.

On Thursday, the campaign unveiled one and sent Vice President Joe Biden to the key swing state of Ohio to test it out — framing the election as a choice between “promoting the private sector” and “protecting the privileged sector.”

“We are a fair shot, and a fair shake. They’re about no rules, no risks and no accountability,” Biden said, contrasting the administration with its Republican opponents and taking the rescue of the American auto industry as his central case.

That choice of topics highlighted how much the auto bailout will figure in Obama’s campaign. The initiatives the administration regards as its biggest accomplishments — the healthcare law, the economic stimulus, the financial market reforms — all remain unpopular or virtually unnoticed among voters.

The auto industry bailout, by contrast, is highly visible, concrete and of particular note in states like this one.

No Republican has ever won the presidency without carrying Ohio. GOP strategists believe they’re well positioned here, pointing to strong gains they made in 2010.

But Obama strategists hope to slam the door on whoever emerges as the Republican nominee by carrying the state, as Obama did in 2008. Boosted by hiring in its manufacturing sector, much of which feeds the auto industry, Ohio’s unemployment rate ticked down to 7.7% last month, from 9% a year earlier.

Chrysler, one of the beneficiaries of the 2009 rescue plan, announced in November that it planned to invest $500 million in its Toledo plant and add a second shift by the second half of 2013 that will result in 1,100 additional jobs.

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