By DAVID SKOLNICK
The day before Barack Obama’s visit today to the Mahoning Valley, two of Mitt Romney’s top surrogates criticized the Democratic president’s economic policies.
During a Thursday stop in the parking lot of Eastwood Field in Niles, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and ex-Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, both considered potential vice-presidential running mates for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, told The Vindicator that Obama needs to be held accountable for the decisions he’s made during his time as president.
“His time in office has been a failure,” Pawlenty said during an interview on Romney’s campaign bus. “Forty consecutive months of above-8-percent unemployment, lowest business formation rate in 30 years — he’s broken his promises to the country.”
Obama has asked to be held accountable, Pawlenty said, and he “hasn’t delivered.”
“Clearly, the president can’t run on his track record, can’t run on his results, can’t run on his broken promises,” Jindal said. “Instead, he’s running a campaign of divide and blame.”
Obama is visiting Mahoning County today.
The president will tour Summer Garden Food Manufacturing in Boardman at 9:40 a.m., according to his campaign. The event at the food manufacturing facility is closed to the public and journalists, except for pool press members.
Obama then goes to Dobbins Elementary School in Poland. He will give a speech to an invitation-only crowd of about 200 to 250 supporters at 10:45 a.m.
The president’s visit to the Valley, as part of his two-day “Betting on America” bus tour, is the only stop on the five-city trip that is closed to the general public.
The campaign’s announcement about the tour states Obama “will talk about his efforts over the last three years to get our economy back on track, doubling down on American workers by saving the auto industry, investing in manufacturing, and bringing jobs back to America.”
When asked about the Obama campaign on the auto bailout of GM and Chrysler, Jindal said, “Certainly, the industry is stronger than it was a few years ago, but I think it’s premature for the president to declare victory the way he is.”
GM, which makes the Chevrolet Cruze at its Lordstown complex, earned its largest profit ever in 2011, $7.6 billion.
During a Thursday press conference, David Green, president of the United Auto Workers Local 1714 at Lordstown GM, said Obama saved the auto industry with the $82 billion government bailout/rescue.
Green was joined by a small group of local Democrats at the Poland Township Administration Building, near Dobbins Elementary School, to welcome the president back to the Valley.
Obama is moving the country forward while Romney “will take us back to the failed policies of the past,” Green said.
State Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, said at the press conference that Obama continues “to fight for the middle class,” while Romney’s business record “is one of broken promises and shattered dreams.”
Jindal and Pawlenty started a two-day bus tour, called the “Middle-Class Promise Gap,” on Thursday, visiting the areas Obama is going to as part of his bus tour. About 160 people attended the Niles event.
Jindal and Pawlenty are going to the president’s stops ahead of him.
“We want to remind folks that [while] the president gives a great speech,” the “time for speeches is over. We need action.”
When asked about their interest in being Romney’s running mate, both were noncommittal.
Pawlenty said the two of them were Romney surrogates well before “all the vice president talk started.”
Jindal added: “Both of us feel compelled to speak out because we know America is at a” crucial point in its history, and the nation can’t afford another four years of Obama.
“We’re both working as hard as we can to make sure he’s a one-term president.”
Today is Obama’s first re-election visit to the area, but his eighth stop in the Mahoning Valley, dating back to a June 20, 2007, fundraiser at the Boardman home of local businessman Herb Washington.
Ohio is expected to be a key state in the presidential election.
“I think Ohio will help elect the next president of the United States,” Jindal said. “Everybody’s always talking about how Ohio is a very important state. It’s extremely important again.”