Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Biden Hails Obama's Auto Bailout in Ohio, Vice President Lays out Campaign Theme

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Biden Hails Obama's Auto Bailout in Ohio, Vice President Lays out Campaign Theme

Article excerpt

TOLEDO, Ohio -- For months, President Barack Obama's campaign has searched for an overarching theme for his re-election bid, something to replace the enthusiastic hope and change motif of 2008.

Thursday, they 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," Mr. Biden said, contrasting the Obama administration with its Republican opponents and taking the rescue of the U.S. auto industry as his central case.

That choice of topics highlighted how much the auto bailout will figure in Mr. Obama's re-election campaign. The initiatives the administration regards as its biggest accomplishments -- the health care law, the economic stimulus, the financial market changes -- all remain unpopular or virtually unnoticed among voters. The auto industry bailout, by contrast, is highly visible, concrete and of particular note in states such as this one.

No Republican has ever won the presidency without carrying Ohio. GOP strategists believe that they're well-positioned in the Buckeye State, 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, which Mr. 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 percent last month, from 9 percent a year earlier.

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

Beyond the immediate economic impact of the bailout, Mr. Biden tied it to a personality trait in Mr. Obama that strategists believe voters respond to, and which they plan to play up -- toughness. "This man has a spine of steel," Mr. Biden said.

"We all want a president with the courage of his convictions. He made the tough call. And the verdict is in: President Obama was right, and they were dead wrong," he said, listing by name each of the Republicans hoping to replace Mr. …

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