DAYTON, Ohio - With debate season in the rear view mirror, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden united today in western Ohio, casting themselves as the only true champions of the state's resurgent auto industry in an effort to bolster their working-class vote.
The Democratic ticket triumphantly asserted that voters here understand better than any what the Obama-backed 2009 auto bailout meant for Ohio jobs. And they argued that no matter what Republican nominee Mitt Romney now says, his past opposition to the bailout is widely known.
"I hope I made clear that there's a big difference between me and Mitt Romney. And it's not just that he's got better hair," Obama joked about Monday night's final presidential debate.
"Governor Romney looked you right in the eye, looked me in the eye, tried to pretend that he never said, Let Detroit go bankrupt. Tried to pretend he meant the same thing I did when we intervened and worked to make sure that management and workers got together to save the U.S. auto industry, pretended like somehow I have taken his advice," Obama said.
"The people don't forget. The people of Dayton don't forget. The people of Ohio don't forget," he said.
In 2008, Romney wrote an op-ed in the New York Times opposing a taxpayer-funded bailout of GM and Chrysler, calling instead for a "managed bankruptcy," which ultimately occurred. The article's title, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt," was written by the paper, not Romney.
"Barack Obama's attack has been deemed false by multiple independent fact checkers and is clearly designed to hide his failed record and lack of an agenda for a second term. Mitt Romney proposed the right course for the automakers, a structured bankruptcy process to allow them to keep jobs in Ohio and emerge as sustainable and profitable enterprises," said Romney spokesman Chris Maloney.
Democrats contend the process could not have proceeded successfully without the backing of the federal government to assure investors.
"Without government support, those companies would have fallen," said senior Obama advisor David Plouffe. "I think Gov. Romney was having one of his bouts of 'Romnesia' he has. If he was president of the U.S. the American auto industry would have been decimated."
The auto industry supports one in eight Ohio jobs, according to the Labor Department.
Obama has visited Ohio 17 times this year - more than any other state. Vice President Biden has swung through the state nine times, often focusing on the auto manufacturing theme.
Biden today accused Romney of trying to "rewrite history" on the auto industry rescue in claiming that a managed bankruptcy was his idea all along.
"Half the time, I didn't know whether Governor Romney was there to debate Barack Obama or endorse Barack Obama," he said mockingly. "You know, I mean, it was hard to tell! But I have a message for the good governor. Governor, you can't run from the truth."
Polls show the Obama-Biden ticket holds a slight lead over Romney-Ryan in the 2012 presidential race in Ohio, but the margin has tightened in recent weeks. No candidate for president since 1960 has won the presidency without winning Ohio.