Appealing to union voters in a dry wall manufacturing plant in this crucial primary state, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Sunday afternoon said that even though he has repeatedly said the passage of NAFTA was bad for the country, he would not try to repeal it.
"I don't think its realistic for us to repeal NAFTA," he said during a town hall meeting on the economy.
He argued arguing that because the trade deal had been passed more than a decade ago, it was entrenched in the economy, and any attempt to repeal it "would actually result in more job loss ... than job gains."
In the fierce fight for votes here in Ohio, where NAFTA is not popular among many blue collar Democrats, Obama has repeatedly attacked Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., for the trade deal pushed by President Bill Clinton and passed in Congress in November 1993.
"Yesterday [Saturday], [Clinton] said NAFTA was 'negotiated' by the first President Bush, not by her husband," Obama said today. "But let's be clear: It was her husband who got NAFTA passed. In her own book, Sen. Clinton called NAFTA one of Bill's successes."
Obama also relayed to the small crowd at the National Gypsum plant a number of quotes from Clinton he said indicated she had praised the trade agreement -- including one from 2004, when she allegedly said, "I think, on balance, NAFTA has been good for New York and America."
Said Obama, "One million jobs have been lost because of NAFTA, including nearly 50,000 jobs here in Ohio. And yet, 10 years after NAFTA passed, Sen. Clinton said it was good for America. Well, I don't think NAFTA has been good for America -- and I never have."
Saturday, Clinton took issue with an Obama mailer being distributed in the Buckeye State that included a quote implying that Clinton had described NAFTA as "a boon" to the economy.
The quote actually was from New York Newsday, which had characterized Clinton's views as considering NAFTA a boon though Clinton herself had never made such a remark.
Clinton biographers Sally Bedell Smith and Carl Bernstein have reported that as first lady, Clinton opposed NAFTA behind the scenes. But it might prove difficult for her to argue that she opposed a trade deal her husband made a legislative priority, not to mention one she has praised in the past.