ONTARIO, Ohio -- Taking verbal shots at President Barack Obama, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney talked about the economy and opposition to military cuts in a campaign stop Monday in this Mansfield suburb.
Returning to battleground Ohio for his 15th time this year, Mr. Romney spoke to a receptive crowd at an industrial plant owned by PR Machine Works, 70 miles northeast of Columbus.
He said he would prevent military cutbacks, including the military's hefty share of more than $1 trillion that would be cut under an automatic budget plan crafted by Mr. Obama and Congress unless they pass a budget soon.
Mr. Romney flew out of the Mansfield airport in Richland County after checking out military transport planes stationed there and which are threatened with elimination from the Pentagon budget.
"Liberty here and around the world is protected in large measure by the strength of the American military. I will make sure our military remains second to none," Mr. Romney said during an 18-minute talk to an audience that surrounded him in the factory. "I will not cut our military."
He criticized Mr. Obama for not spelling out, as required, how he would cut the Pentagon under the so-called sequestration law.
"He won't describe all the jobs that will be lost, not until probably after the election," Mr. Romney said, adding that's "one secret relating to national security he's willing to keep."
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, joined Mr. Romney and said 800 jobs at the Air National Guard base are threatened.
"The 179th is doing a terrific job for us; we need to be sure we're standing with them. Unfortunately, President Obama made the decision to end the mission of the 179th," he said.
Mr. Obama was lambasted locally Aug. 1 for flying into Mansfield Lahm Airport, where the National Guard's 179th Airlift Wing is based, for a campaign event. The White House later said that although it is rethinking the C27-J aircraft, it would support a new mission for the National Guard base.
The Obama campaign said that PR Machine Works' website shows that it has recently added jobs and identifies itself as a "Tier II supplier" for Honda of America, considered by many to have been an indirect beneficiary of the taxpayer funded "rescues" of General Motors and Chrysler in 2009.
"It's ironic that Mitt Romney has chosen to push his doom-and-gloom economic message at a company that is adding jobs and expanding its facilities under President Obama, especially one whose clients include automakers which are thriving in spite of Romney's desire to 'let Detroit go bankrupt,' " said Jessica Kershaw, spokeswoman for the Obama campaign in Ohio.
Ohio is being treated by both campaigns as a big prize in the Nov. 6 election, and lately has been getting weekly visits from presidential and vice presidential candidates. Mr. Romney is due Friday in Cleveland for a campaign fundraiser.
"Richland County is one of those counties that is going to determine the direction of Ohio in this election and therefore the direction of the country. It's an important swing county," Mr. Portman said.
In 2008, Richland County went 57 percent for Republican John McCain, and accounted for just more than 1 percent of the total Ohio vote in the presidential election.
Basing some of his remarks on the Pledge of Allegiance, Mr. Romney vowed, "I will not take God out of the public square."
The former Massachusetts governor said, "We need a president who will go to work to reinvigorate our economy and put the American people back to work."
He said he was surprised that during Mr. Obama's speech at the Democratic convention, the president didn't mention that 47 million people are getting food stamps, compared with 32 million when he took office.
Mr. Romney poked fun at Mr. Obama's campaign slogan, "Forward."
"I think forewarned is a better term," he said.
Afterward he spoke to an overflow crowd outside the building.
"I want to heal the economy. I'm not looking to heal the planet. That's an important job, I know. But I'm here to make sure people have good jobs," Mr. Romney said in the impromptu remarks.
Romney campaign spokesman Kevin Madden told reporters after the speech that the economy is the No. 1 issue, and "the challenge for us over the next 57 days is to make the case with Ohio voters that Governor Romney can put the country back on track, and get the economy pretty much to its full potential."
Block News Alliance comprises the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. Tom Troy is a reporter for The Blade. First Published September 11, 2012 4:00 AM