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Friday, November 2, 2012

Clinton Assails Romney on Swing Through Ohio

PERRYSBURG, Ohio - Bill Clinton swept through a campaign visit to Ohio on behalf of President Obama on Thursday, blasting Mitt Romney and his surrogates for implying that Jeep might begin manufacturing vehicles in China at the expense of American jobs and for suggesting that Colin L. Powell endorsed Mr. Obama because both men are black.

Mr. Clinton, 66, started the day with a campaign stop in Wisconsin and made his first Ohio stop here, outside Toledo, his voice as hoarse as it often was 20 years ago when he campaigned for president. Much of his appearance was a reprise of his speech at the Democratic National Convention and other campaign talks that have praised Mr. Obama's economic, health care and student loan policies.

“My voice is a little weak,” he told a crowd of about 1,900 students and other supporters at Owens Community College. “But I wasted it in a good cause.”

In fact, the pace of his appearances for Mr. Obama was evident a few minute s into his speech when Mr. Clinton said, “I'm honored to be here in Pennsylvania to support President Obama.”

“Ohio!” many in the crowd shouted.

“I have a Pennsylvania line in the speech,” Mr. Clinton explained. But it was a forgiving crowd. “It's O.K,” one woman screamed. “Give ‘em hell, Bill,” a man shouted a few minutes later.

Mr. Clinton reveled in the opportunity to attack Mr. Romney over the Republican ticket's widely criticized commercial that left the misleading impression that Chrysler - the corporate parent of Jeep â€" would build Jeeps in China at the expense of American jobs. The automaker says it is discussing new Jeep production in China for sales within China, but that would not affect jobs in the United States, and that it is adding workers in Toledo. The Romney campaign has stood by the accuracy of the commercial.

“Mr. Romney has come into Ohio time and time again and tied himself in knots,” Mr. Clinton said. “So what's their latest scam? You've probably seen it - they say that Jeep is moving jobs to China.” Many in the crowd also shouted “China!” as Mr. Clinton said it, almost drowning his raspy voice.

“The truest thing the Romney campaign ever said was, they have no intention of having their campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” Mr. Clinton added.

Mr. Clinton also took a shot at John H. Sununu, the former New Hampshire governor and one of Mr. Romney's chief surrogates, who last week had suggested that Mr. Powell, the former secretary of state under George W. Bush, may have endorsed Mr. Obama for a second time because they are both of the same race.

“Oh, he endorsed him because they are both black,” Mr. Clinton said, using his own paraphrase of Mr. Sununu's comments. (Mr. Sununu had quickly backtracked last week, saying he did not doubt Mr. Powell's endorsement was based on anything other than support for Mr. Obama's policies.)

And Mr. Clinton wasn't finished. He mentioned how the Romney campaign had, in Mr. Clinton's words, stated that “now the Italians are taking your jobs away.” (Chrysler is majority-owned by Fiat â€" the “Italians” â€" and the Romney commercial's voiceover had stated that Mr. Obama had “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for every American job.” Text shown on the screen had also said, “Plans to return Jeep output to China.”)

Chrysler's chief executive, Sergio Marchionne, e-mailed his employees earlier this week to “unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China,” adding that “it is inaccurate to suggest anything different.”

Mr. Clinton, who says he has Irish ancestry, closed his remarks here by joking, “Pretty soon, they'll come after the Irish â€" and I'm toast.”