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Obama, Romney Hold Dueling Events In Ohio


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. And we begin this hour on the road with the presidential candidates. Yesterday, it was New York City. Today, Mitt Romney and President Obama are in Ohio, where both men have already logged a lot of campaign hours. The candidates are in the same part of the state at the same time, holding rallies in Northern Ohio near Lake Erie. NPR's Ari Shapiro joins me now from Ohio. And, Ari, first, tell us about President Obama's events there today.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Well, he's got a pair of rallies at universities, the first at Bowling Green State University and then at Kent State University. So clearly, you can see there's some focus on younger voters and also, really an emphasis on manufacturing, and specifically on China. There was a pretty direct back and forth between the two candidates today that has extended to their campaign ads that are running really heavily focusing on China. The president said - responding to Romney's accusation that he has been soft on China, the president said that, no, it is Romney who has profited off Chinese companies that exported American jobs. This is part of what he said at Bowling Green State University today.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Now, when you hear this newfound outrage, when you see these ads he's running promising to get tough on China, it feels a lot like that fox saying, you know, we need more secure chicken coops.

SHAPIRO: And he also referred a couple of times to that video in which Mitt Romney refers to the 47 percent of Americans, that video that was surreptitiously recorded at a Romney fundraiser. The president said, I don't believe we can get very far with leaders who write off half the nation as a bunch of victims who never take responsibility for their own lives.

BLOCK: OK. Well, if the president's message, as you say, focused on China and on manufacturing, what about Mitt Romney's message today?

SHAPIRO: Speaking to the very same issues. He started the day with a rally at a high school gym outside of Columbus. And after a week of hitting really hard on foreign policy and national security issues, Mitt Romney was back to his economic bread and butter today. Later at a business roundtable in Bedford Heights, Ohio, he also attacked President Obama's approach to China.

MITT ROMNEY: And when their prices are low and then they compete with our manufacturers, our guys go out of business and people lose jobs. And that's why one thing I will do from day one is label China a currency manipulator. They must not steal jobs in unfair way.

SHAPIRO: Melissa, these are really important themes in this part of the state. Manufacturing is just crucial, especially here in Northwestern Ohio where I'm speaking to you from. It's practically an appendage of Detroit. Factories, blue-collar jobs are really a key part of what keeps people working here. And today, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are both clearly speaking directly to each other about those issues after starting the week being a little bit more muted in their speeches in New York.

BLOCK: You know, Ari, this is a time in the campaign when new polls come out pretty much every day. And recently there has not been much good news for Mitt Romney. We see President Obama's lead widening in a number of key states, including where you are there in Ohio.

SHAPIRO: Yeah, that's right. There's a new Washington Post poll that has the president up by eight points here in Ohio. A New York Times survey has the president up by 10 points. And new surveys looking at Florida show a similar, although not quite as wide a gap. That's really a problem for Mitt Romney. No Republican has ever won the presidency without carrying Ohio. And if he loses both Florida and Ohio, in that case there is essentially no way for him to reach the number of electoral votes he needs to win. That said, of course, there are still six weeks remaining in this race.

BLOCK: And one week from today, there will be the first presidential debate in Denver. What is the lay of the land going forward to the debate?

SHAPIRO: It's impossible to overstate the stakes for Romney in that face-to-face encounter. It's his biggest chance left to change things around. And perhaps for that reason, his campaign has not announced any events between now and next Wednesday. He's been doing a lot of debate prep and will be doing a lot more between now and then with Ohio Senator Rob Portman playing the role of President Obama. The president meanwhile flies to Nevada on Sunday where he will do his own debate prep with Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts playing the role of Romney.

BLOCK: OK. NPR's Ari Shapiro. Ari, thank you.

SHAPIRO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.