Competing for white working-class voters, President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney squared off Saturday on China and accused each other of backing policies that would move American jobs overseas as the U.S. economy struggles to recover.
“In 2008, candidate Obama promised to take China ‘to the mat,’” Romney said in his weekly podcast. “But since then, he’s let China run all over us.”
Obama’s team, in turn, argued that Romney has profited from and outsourced jobs to China. The president also rolled out a new 60-second, $6 million ad campaign that casts Romney as risky for the nation’s recovery and features former President Bill Clinton saying: “They want to go back to the same old policies that got us in trouble in the first place.”
Seven weeks before Election Day, both candidates took a rare break from campaigning even as they intensified their efforts on the economy, through the prism of China, with Obama sensing an opportunity to undercut his Republican rival’s strength and Romney refusing to cede ground. The maneuvering came as a new poll showed Romney having lost his long-held advantage on the economy to the president even as the overall contest remains tight.
For Romney, emphasizing China was a way to refocus his campaign on voters’ No. 1 issue and the central one of his campaign after a difficult week dominated by foreign policy, a weak spot for the Republican, in the wake of unrest at U.S. embassies in the Middle East. The shift to China also indicated Romney’s need to shore up support among the working-class voters he needs to turn out in big numbers come November.