Clinton hits Romney for Ohio auto ad he calls lie

JOHN SEEWER Associated Press Published:

PERRYSBURG, Ohio (AP) -- Former President Bill Clinton joined a chorus of Democrats who are blasting GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney over campaign ads that claim General Motors and Chrysler are adding jobs in China at Ohio's expense.

Clinton, campaigning for President Barack Obama across the all-important state of Ohio on Thursday, said Romney's response to the criticism from the automakers has been to pour money into ads that he knows are false.

"That should be all you need to know," Clinton said at a rally just outside Toledo, where Chrysler operates two factories and plans to add 1,100 jobs at its assembly plant.

Romney's presidential campaign has fought back against criticism from Democrats and the automakers, arguing that the ads are accurate. The ads repeat a version of Romney's claim at a rally in Ohio last week that Chrysler is moving Jeep production to China. Chrysler insists that no jobs are being moved.

A new radio spot airing Thursday in the Toledo area said Romney, not Obama, was more supportive of the auto industry. "Mitt Romney, he'll stand up for the auto industry in Ohio, not China," the ad said.

Clinton repeated the criticism Thursday evening in Akron before several hundred people in a convention center ballroom and, later, to supporters in a gymnasium at Ohio University's Chillicothe campus.

Instead of shelving the Jeep claim as wrong, Clinton said Romney acted like a misbehaving child who says, "Well, shucks, I got caught with my hand in the cookie jar."

And, Clinton said, "They increased the buy on the bogus ad."

Clinton offered a detailed comparison of proposals by Obama and Romney and said he was satisfied with the possibility that Ohio might swing the election in favor of the winner.

"It's OK with me if you get to decide this election," said Clinton, his raspy voice sometimes dwindling to a whisper after a grueling campaign load as the election draws near.

Vice President Joe Biden a day earlier called the ads flagrantly dishonest. Romney opposed the 2009 government bailout of GM and Chrysler, which Obama championed.

Romney spokesman Chris Maloney said Thursday that taxpayers stand to lose $25 billion over Obama's handling of the bailout.

"The criticism proves that partisan allies are not interested in engaging in a meaningful conversation about the Obama administration's failed record during the last week of the campaign," Maloney said.

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said GM and Chrysler are expanding their production overseas. "These are facts that voters deserve to know as they listen to the claims President Obama and his campaign are making."

The auto bailout and its impact in Ohio is shaping up to be one of the defining issues in the presidential campaign in Ohio, a state every Republican has won on the way to the White House.

Backers of the bailout say one in eight jobs in Ohio can be linked to the auto industry, which includes both factory workers and those who sell groceries to plant employees.

All the Detroit automakers have a big presence in the state, especially in the northern half where Obama is counting on a big turnout from union households. The Toledo area alone has two Chrysler plants, a GM factory and dozens of supplier operations.

Clinton was in Wisconsin and Ohio on Thursday before heading to Florida for a slew of rallies. He apologized repeatedly for his raspy voice and corrected himself after saying he was honored to be in Pennsylvania.

His harsh words about the GOP presidential hopeful struck a much different tone than his remarks at a rally two weeks ago near Cleveland where he barely mentioned Romney.

But with only a few days left in the campaign, the former president has sharpened his speeches. He said Romney's prediction that he'll create 12 million jobs if elected is based on what will happen because of policies Obama already has in place.

"His argument is you must be disappointed so put me in so I can claim credit for these jobs I had nothing to do with it," he said.

Romney's plan to cut taxes will come at the expense of health care for the poor and affordable loans for college students, Clinton said.

"I just don't think it works," he said. "We have tried it before."

In Chillicothe, voters like Bruce Marvin, 54, said they think Clinton's campaigning for Obama is really stirring the Democratic base ahead of the big day.

Marvin, of Vinton, said he thinks Clinton presents Obama's plans even more understandably than Obama.

"I think it's backing up what Obama may not have been able to get across, too," Marvin said.

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Associated Press writers Thomas J. Sheeran in Akron and Kantele Franko in Chillicothe contributed to this report.

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