* Appear together for first time in weeks
* Romney aides insist Ohio race is close despite polls
* Romney talks tough on China
By Steve Holland and Samuel P. Jacobs
DAYTON, Ohio, Sept 25 (Reuters) – Facing a tough path to
victory if they cannot win Ohio, Republicans Mitt Romney and
Paul Ryan launched a two-day bus tour on Tuesday to try to boost
their fortunes in a state that polls show could be slipping away
The Republican nominees for president and vice president
appeared together for the first time in more than three weeks,
part of what aides vow will be a more aggressive phase of
campaigning after Romney spent much of the past two weeks
raising money and holding few public rallies.
Romney emphasized his claims that Democratic President
Barack Obama’s policies are preventing the U.S. economy from a
full recovery and that Obama has not been tough enough in
pushing back against Chinese trade practices that have led to
cheap goods flooding the U.S. market and killing American jobs.
Romney accused China of a wide variety of trade abuses, from
holding down the value of its currency to keep its products
cheap, to stealing U.S. intellectual property.
“We cannot compete with people that don’t play fair, and I
will not let that go on,” Romney said.
SCRAMBLING IN OHIO
Romney’s message on China has been a central part of his
stump speech all year. Obama’s campaign has responded with a
television ad that accuses Romney of outsourcing jobs to China
during his time as a private equity executive at Bain Capital.
Romney and his team hope the trade message will resonate in
Ohio, a politically divided state that is key to his chances of
winning the presidency – but where polls indicate Obama has
opened up a lead.
Ohio’s unemployment rate in July was 7.2 percent, better
than the national level of 8.1 percent.
It is difficult to see how Romney could win the Nov. 6
election without Ohio.
He has a narrower path than Obama to get the 270 electoral
votes needed for victory, and most scenarios require him to win
the Midwestern state where thousands of jobs were saved by the
Obama-backed government bailout of the auto industry.
Romney aides dismissed surveys showing the Republican
presidential ticket falling behind Obama in Ohio on a day in
which a Washington Post poll showed the president with an
8-point lead over Romney, 52 to 44 percent.
Romney political director Rich Beeson told reporters on the
candidate’s plane that the campaign’s internal polling showed a
closer race in Ohio, within the survey’s margin of error. He
accused the Obama campaign of “spiking the ball at the 30-yard
line,” or declaring victory in the state long before the
“I kind of hope the Obama campaign is basing their campaign
on what the public polls say,” Beeson said. “We don’t. We have
confidence in our data and our metrics.”
‘MORE AGGRESSIVE, ASSERTIVE’
Romney has suffered a series of stumbles in recent weeks
that have knocked him off message and given the advantage to
Some Romney supporters hope their candidate will put that
behind him with an aggressive campaign schedule in the 10 or so
key states that will decide the outcome of the election.
“I would like him to be more aggressive, assertive in
detailing his plans, making people vote for a future and not
against an alternative future. I want him to focus more on what
he’s going to do,” said Ken Warner, 50, a software engineer from
South Dayton, Ohio.
Romney sought to generate some fresh energy by appearing
with Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman and budget hawk who is
popular among conservatives – many of whom have been
disappointed that Ryan has not been a more prominent force in
In introducing Romney, Ryan pointed to Romney’s experience
in the business world and said Obama is trying to distract
Americans’ attention from the economy.
“This president cannot run on his record. This president is
going to say anything and everything to try and blame, to try
and duck, to try and distort, to try and divide, to try and
distract,” Ryan said. “You know what, Ohio? We’re not going to
Joining Romney and Ryan on stage were two Republican
senators, Rob Portman of Ohio and Rand Paul of Kentucky. Paul is
the son of Ron Paul, a Texas congressman who ran against Romney
for the Republican presidential nomination and has declined to
Portman was on Romney’s short list to be the vice
presidential running mate. Now he is playing the role of Obama
in mock debate sessions that Romney has been conducting to
prepare for three presidential debates that may prove decisive
in the election. The first one is on Oct. 3 in Denver.
Romney quipped that Portman is playing the role of Obama
“I want to kick him out of the room, he’s so good,” Romney
said to laughter.