For Obama, Romney, China still a major issue in Ohio

The economic setbacks in the U.S. and Europe are now beginning to seriously hinder the sales and profits of manufacturers in China. Celia Hatton reports from the industry-heavy city of Dongguan. STR

China's economic slowdown
The economic setbacks in the U.S. and Europe are now beginning to seriously hinder the sales and profits of manufacturers in China. Celia Hatton reports from the industry-heavy city of Dongguan.
STR
(CBS News) As President Obama and Mitt Romney campaign in the crucial battleground state of Ohio Wednesday, both are attacking each other over China - a consistent theme for both as they traverse the important battleground state.

"[T]he President will talk about his record of holding China accountable so that American workers can compete globally while Mitt Romney has continued to profit from companies that ship jobs to China," an Obama campaign official told reporters, previewing the president's two afternoon campaign rallies in the Buckeye State.

Romney, meanwhile, also advanced his line of attack, saying Wednesday morning in Westerville, Ohio, "We're going to crack down on China.... They've stolen our jobs; that's gotta stop."

Vowing to label China a currency manipulator, Romney said, during another stop on his Ohio bus tour Tuesday, "We cannot compete with people who don't play fair and I won't let that go on." He added, "I will stop it in its tracks."

Romney and Mr. Obama have lobbed numerous attacks over China, each attempting to sound tougher than the other. Both campaigns have released TV ads targeting the issue and have taken the argument to the campaign trail in the state once reliant on the manufacturing sector, but forced to adapt to a declining number of factory jobs.

"It is not clear that most voters truly understand the economic significance of China but playing the fear card doesn't necessarily require that tutorial by either campaign," Republican strategist Trey Hardin told CBSNews.com in a recent interview. "Therefore, both candidates incorporate China in their messaging by highlighting potentially scary economic confrontations with this rival nation."

The president's tactic is to charge Romney with buying and owning companies as head of Bain Capital that outsourced American jobs to lower-waged Chinese workers, even though fact-checkers have taken issue with some of the claims.

Romney says the president has had four years to get tough on China but has "let China cheat."

The Romney campaign is also criticizing the president's "protectionism," specifically pointing reporters to a Romney campaign policy memo that says the tariff Mr. Obama placed on Chinese tires in 2009 in an attempt to protect the declining American tire industry has increased costs to consumers. A Romney spokesperson says the action was "ineffective" and "had nothing to do with addressing China's unfair trace practices."

That tire tariff is set to expire Wednesday and the Obama campaign has not yet indicated whether the president would renew it. Obama campaign spokesperson Lis Smith did accuse Romney of straddling both sides of the issue.

"So after spending months trying to reinvent himself as a trade warrior, Mitt Romney is now attacking President Obama for standing up to China on behalf of American workers in the tire industry?" Smith wrote in a statement. "If he can't decide where he stands on China, how should he expect the American people to trust him to stand up to them?"

The president also highlights complaints he filed with the World Trade Organization, including one earlier this month which targets Chinese auto parts manufacturers.

A new Quinnipiac University/ CBS News/ NY Times poll released Wednesday shows Mr. Obama has expanded his lead there, with a 10-point advantage over his Republican rival among voters who say they are likely to vote. On the question of who would do a better job handling the economy, Mr. Obama leads Romney 51 percent to 45 percent in Ohio.

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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